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A Physician Collects: Richard D. Feldman, MD


“Collecting has also guided me down other related paths in my life.” Richard Feldman, a physician with a passion for Native American art and artifacts.


Collecting has also guided me down other related paths in my life

Richard Feldman

Richard Feldman, MD, a collector of Native American art, holds a Raven Rattle, NW Coast C. 1890 from his collection.

If the percentage of physicians who collect is similar to the general population; one-third engage in this endeavor. Richard Feldman, MD, Program Director of the Family Practice Residency at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana is one such doctor. He feels a strong connection with his avocation, really a passion.

Feldman became interested in Native American art years prior to becoming a physician while he was an undergraduate at Indiana University in Bloomington. It was there that he studied with Native American traditions scholar Joseph Epes Brown. Feldman relates, “I loved Native American art as well as antiques, so I soon found myself collecting antique Native American material art.” Now, after forty-four years of gathering these special objects, Feldman has honed in on specific areas in which he is most interested and knowledgeable: Plains material, Navajo textiles and Northwest Coast Indian art.

Like most collectors, the physician cannot buy with abandon. He must place some restrictions on himself: “I do have limitations on my financial ability to collect many objects that I would love to have,” he says. Still, that doesn’t keep him from enjoying the chase. “There is a certain exhilaration in finding a truly wonderful piece at a bargain.”

Years of familiarity, interacton with, and attachment to Indian art has produced an emotional bond in Dr. Feldman to his collection. “The art aesthetically does something to me inside that is difficult to articulate," he says, "I love to be surrounded by it. As an amateur historian, I feel like I own a part of history.”

Doctor Feldman also feels the process of collecting has enriched his life in other unexpected and unforeseen ways. “Becky (Dr. Rebecca Feldman, MD, his wife) and I have made many friends with fellow collectors from across the country, some of them have become very dear friends.” And, as with many categories of collecting, there are associations to which one can belong, “There is an antique Native American art-collecting community, a comradery of collectors and dealers we have come to feel very much a part of, and we enjoy seeing everyone at yearly shows mostly in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

Finally, Dr. Feldman relates an example of how his interest in Native American art led him into a related path, one that has importantly touched his life and that of others. He started researching totem poles in 1986 out of curiosity related to a pole missing from the collection at Sitka National Historical Park. This resulted in several articles and a book entitled Home Before the Raven Caws: The Mystery of a Totem Pole (2013, 2nd edition). This, in turn, led to his involvement with the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians in Indianapolis, Indiana, and ultimately his adoption by a native Haida famly in British Columbia. “My close relationship with my Haida family has been one of the most interesting and gratifying experiences of my life.”

Dr. Feldman is a physician with passion.

More Physicisians with a Passion:

Physicians with Passion: Cardiologist and Metal Sculptor Irwin Labin

Physicians with Passion: Family Practitioner and Painter Jeff Brown

Physicians with Passion: Neurologist and Photographer Walter Nieves

Find Your Passion: Reversing Physician Burnout

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