A Zambian wedding basket fixed on a wall. Native American ceramics neatly lined up on shelves. One hundred-year-old original photographic prints hanging in a hallway.

This isn’t a museum, it's the Quail Creek home of Ron and Vicki Sullivan.

Over the past 40 years, the Sullivans have amassed a collection of hundreds of pottery, crafts, paintings and pieces of art that represent Native American, Hispanic and other cultures. Now, those pieces are making the transition to museums.

“It will be more fun for us to go see this stuff in a museum when we’re still alive,” Vicki, 66, said.

The first 29 pieces of art are leaving for the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, N.M., in September, but that represents just a small portion of the collection.

All collections start somewhere, and the Sullivans remember the first piece of art they acquired for theirs.

They were at an art festival in Miami in the early 1970s when they came across a purple pot and bought it.

“It was the beginning of working together to buy beautiful things in our lives,” Vicki said.

Ron, 74, also recalls a PBS special they watched around 1973 on Edward S. Curtis, the famed photographer of Native Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century, as something that piqued their interest in Native American culture and the Southwest.

While they moved frequently across the country, the Sullivans took whatever vacation time they could to travel to the Southwest, as well as other places around the world.

“We started to go on buying trips,” Vicki said. “We’d get a couple thousand dollars and say, ‘Let’s go pick up something.’”

Ron said their passion for collecting art began to blossom when they moved to northern New Mexico in 2001.

He said the area was steeped in the art culture that surrounded their new home in Placitas. The town between Santa Fe and Albuquerque is close to a vibrant Hispanic cultural scene as well as 19 active Native American pueblos, Ron said.

“We were overwhelmed, to say the least,” Ron said.

Now, the art collection that crowds the Sullivans’ home includes about 300 pieces of pottery, textiles, rugs and others that they consider to be of value. This is in addition to about 400 other pieces they’ve collected that they don't consider to be as valuable.

This collection includes a colorfully beaded basket from Sumatra, Yaqui Indian dance rattles and even prints from Curtis’ photography of Native Americans in the Southwest.

It’s hard to walk around their home in the Quail Creek neighborhood in Sahuarita without feeling like you might break something valuable.

Crucifixes hang in their hallway next to Native American rugs. A bookcase in their living room contains dozens of pots from different cultures. Even their TV stand is an art piece they plan on giving away soon.

The Sullivans even made a book, which runs hundreds of pages, that contains all the pieces of their collection.

Vicki also has a javelina head made to be worn by a person — which looks like a mascot head — that she has taken to Halloween parties.

How much is it all worth? They'd rather not say.

In October, the Sullivans reached out to the New Mexico Museum Foundation — which runs five art and history museums in that state, including the Museum of International Folk Art — to find another home for their collection.

The Sullivans have no children and their families are doing well enough financially that they don’t need help, Vicki said. So, there’s no one they feel like they need to pass all the artwork on to.

For those reasons, the Sullivans say they want to donate whatever the New Mexico museums will take.

When curators arrived at their home, Vicki said, they were blown away at the collection. She said the curators told them that some of the things in their home are better than what you would find in many museums.

Since that visit, the Sullivans have been working with the curators to identify anything that could go into one of the museums.

The Sullivans received a list from the curators on Monday listing the first 29 pieces they want for the Museum of International Folk Art. That list includes a Jaguar effigy, Pascola dance masks, an assortment of traditional Hispanic crucifixes and a handcrafted doll.

Ron said that as they’ve gotten older, they recognize it’s time to start letting go of all the art they’ve collected over the course of their lives.

“As a collector I’m always felt attached to the pieces we bought,” Ron said. “And then, I don’t what it is, if it’s maturity, but giving up the collection becomes less of a decision than a way of knowing that these pieces will be viewed by people in these museums, and that gives me great pleasure to know that.”

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