This article explores the relationship between art, folklore, and cultural institutions in mid-twentieth-century Ecuador. The founding of the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (CCE) in 1944 represented a milestone in the construction of the idea of ‘national culture’. It generated a cultural policy that recognized indigeneity as the foundation of Ecuadorian identity. The artists of the time took up joint actions with the CCE intended to salvage what was initially regarded as ‘manual art’ or ‘indigenous arts’, and eventually became notions of ‘handicrafts’ and/or ‘folklore’. Following the creation of the Instituto Ecuatoriano del Folklore and the Instituto Azuayo del Folklore in the 1960s, both of which were affiliated with the CCE, a series of art-related activities were organized. The artists involved regarded themselves as folklorists and took charge not only of collecting ethnographic materials throughout the country but also of motivating an aesthetic interest in, and promoting craft practices among the indigenous peoples. From this perspective, this article considers the complex interweaving between what was being configured as a field of artistic-aesthetic creation and research as conceived from the standpoint of material culture, its intersection with the anthropology of folklore at the time, and the interests of the nation-state in this kind of cultural practice.