Patricia Marroquin Norby MA’01, MFA’02 has a theory: “Indians attract Indians.” Especially in urban areas, she believes, Indigenous people seek each other out to build community and create together. Named the inaugural associate curator of Native American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2020, Norby now has a greater platform to put her theory into practice.

A descendant of the Purépecha, Norby knows how valuable it is to have access to cultural traditions and fellowship. Throughout her time at UW–Madison, Indigenous student organizations welcomed Norby and her son into a supportive, active network. The late Truman Lowe MFA’73, a celebrated Ho-Chunk artist and UW professor, also took Norby under his wing and helped prepare her for her current role.

As a curator, Norby brings together Indigenous art and perspectives, attracting Native and non-Native artists and audiences alike. Her debut exhibition at the Met, Water Memories, was inspired by water’s everyday influence on people’s lives. It displayed a collection of photographs, videos, toys, and more, underscored with personal narratives from Indigenous people reflecting on their relationship with water.

“Everybody has a memory of water, whether it’s a negative, positive, or peaceful memory, or a really fun moment,” Norby says. Oceans, streams, faucets, floods, and droughts shape civilizations, human history, and daily life. “That’s why we have the word memories, because the narrative is framed around very intimate moments — memories that each artist or community had in connection to a work on view.”