Meet Our Founders

Gifford Phillips (1918-2013) was born in Chevy Chase, Maryland, the son of James Laughlin Phillips and Alice Conyngham Gifford. He attended Stanford University and graduated from Yale University in 1943.

Gifford Phillips was a passionate champion of the arts, a discerning collector of both contemporary painting and historic Native American art, and a dedicated political activist. As a collector, most notably of Abstract Expressionism, he had also given meaningful attention to the preservation of the arts of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.

Phillips’ long-time advocacy for the arts has occurred in part through influential trusteeships, including long-term relationships with two of the most significant art institutions in the United States: the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Mr. Phillips was founding chairman of the Contemporary Art Council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1961 and joined the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1966. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Yale University Art Museum from 1985 to 1999. Phillips was a member of the Mark Rothko Foundation when that group resolved the complicated and protracted legal battle over that artist’s estate, and also Trustee and President of the Pasadena Art Museum from 1970 to 1974, a period during which that institution would become the Norton Simon Museum and serve as the setting for a landmark case on the rights of museum donors.

During the 1990’s, Gifford Phillips and his wife Joann moved permanently to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they had been involved in local arts organizations since 1968. In Santa Fe, he chaired the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and served on the board of Cornerstones Community Partnerships. In 1989, Phillips founded the Chamiza Foundation which is a non-profit private family foundation that continues to provide grant funds for a wide range of projects focused on preserving the arts and cultural traditions of the nineteen Pueblo Indian tribes in New Mexico and one Pueblo tribe in Texas.

Joann Phillips (1928-2018) was born in Portland, Oregon. She attended the University of California in Santa Barbara where she received a degree in Social Work. After her marriage to Gifford Phillips in 1953, she was actively involved with various arts organizations in Los Angeles and later in New York City and Santa Fe.

In Santa Fe, Mrs. Phillips was one of the founders of SITE Santa Fe and was an Honorary Director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. She, with her husband Gifford, were closely involved with the founding of the Chamiza Foundation and served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors since its inception in 1989.

Gifford and Joann Phillips have three children, Alice Phillips Swistel, James Phillips, and Marjorie Phillips Elliott, and eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Alfonso Ortiz (1939-1997), Founding Board Director, was dedicated to the study of Anthropology, which he believed could act as a mirror for humanity that could help to eliminate the barriers between the world’s communities. He believed that, “To celebrate diversity, we must first understand and respect the achievements, art, music, traditions and values of all cultures.” Dr. Ortiz was a renowned Native American anthropologist from Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico. During his lifetime he served in numerous community and advocacy roles as well as being one of the most prolific native scholars. As a distinguished scholar he taught at Princeton, Berkeley, Rutgers, Colorado College, Claremont College, and the University of New Mexico (UNM).