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Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West receives notable ‘early moderns’ of Mac Schweitzer

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, 3830 N. Marshall Way, offers rotating exhibitions that feature hundreds of Western artworks, rare historical objects, and cultural treasures. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress)
Mac Schweitzer collection at Western Spirit is largest cache of work to date
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is announcing the receipt of a generous donation of paintings, drawings, prints, and archival materials by Mac Schweitzer, a once-renowned Arizona artist of the mid-twentieth century.

With nearly 500 objects, including 128 original artworks plus prints, sketches, and ephemera, The Mac Schweitzer Collection is an extensive compilation. It forms the largest body of work by a Western woman artist represented in the Western Spirit’s permanent collections, museum officials tell the Arizona Digital Free Press.

The Schweitzer Collection came to Western Spirit in 2022 as a gift of Dr. Ann Lane Hedlund, in memory of her late husband and Mac’s son, Kit Schweitzer, and in honor of their relatives in the Cox, Moore, Schweitzer, and White families.

It joins the Fran and Ed Elliott Southwest Women Art Collection and bolsters the museum’s intention to expand representation for women artists, conspicuously missing in the traditional art history of the American West, the art historians agree.

Mac Schweitzer (1921-1962) was born Mary Alice Cox in Euclid, Ohio, and studied at the Cleveland School of Art — later renamed the Cleveland Institute of Art. She fell in love with the West and in 1946 moved to Arizona, where she found inspiration in the Sonoran Desert, Sky Island mountains, native wildlife, and traditions of indigenous peoples.

In the mid-twentieth century, Ms. Schweitzer was a central figure in the Tucson artists’ colony, where Maynard Dixon, Edith Hamlin, Tom Bahti, Rose Cabat, Harrison Moore, and others were active members of a lively art scene. With her award-winning work shown steadily at prominent Tucson galleries (and at Camelback Galleries and Lloyd Kiva’s Craftsman Court in Scottsdale), she supported herself solely through her art.

Mac Schweitzer collection at Western Spirit is largest cache of work to date

Among several large commissions, in 1961 Mac designed the exuberant interior and exterior panels of the world-famous Trader Vic’s Polynesian restaurant, a Scottsdale landmark on Fifth Avenue for decades.

In addition to completed works, the Schweitzer Collection includes hundreds of working sketches, scrapbooks, photos, and other archival materials that add depth to Western Spirit, making it a treasure trove for scholars, researchers, artists, collectors, and art fans.

“Mac’s careful observations of people, domestic and wild animals, birds and plants, add immeasurably to our collections,” says Dr. Tricia Loscher, Western Spirit assistant director & chief curator. “Ranging from realism to impressionism to abstraction, Schweitzer’s unique work resembles no other Western artist.”

During the 1950s this intrepid artist visited and later lived in Hopi and Navajo country where she painted the people and places she knew well.

“It is not a realistic picture that I wish to produce,” the artist once wrote, “but impressions and moods.”

At her death in 1962, aside from works at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Tucson Museum of Art, and others, Ms. Schweitzer’s artwork remained largely in private hands, awaiting rediscovery.

“We look forward to surprising our visitors with the brilliant accomplishments of this long-lost artist,” said Todd Bankofier, Western Spirit CEO and executive director.

The Schweitzer Collection will form the focus of a 2025 exhibition organized by Western Spirit, with a major publication developed by donor Ann Hedlund, Ph.D., and co-authored by a team of specialists. Ms. Hedlund, the daughter-in-law that Mac Schweitzer never met, is a recognized cultural anthropologist and award-winning writer, now retired from the Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona.

“The Schweitzer Collection and Dr. Hedlund’s involvement reinforces Western Spirit’s reputation as a dynamic center of Western history and culture that embraces the contributions of women to the arts and the story of the West,” emphasizes Dr. Loscher. “Our research continues and, if readers know about other works by Schweitzer, we welcome learning about them. We are honored to uncover and share with our visitors the creative world of this significant artist, Mac Schweitzer.”

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