A new exhibit featuring several Native American artists is on display in The Crisp Visual Arts Center at Culver Academies. “The Art of Contemporary Native Americans” The Prairie Edge Collection” is on display on the second floor and will remain through the end of September, Curator Robert Nowalk said.
The collection is a gathering of artwork by traditional artists who maintain the visual vernacular of the tribes dwelling in the northern Great Plains region. A gift from Ray Hillenbrand ’52, owner of the Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries, Rapid City, South Dakota, the collection consists of 37 artworks works by 16 artists of tribal heritage.
It includes several works by Michael McLeod, a registered member of the Bad River band of the Chippewa; beadwork by recognized master Kevin D. Fast Horse, Sr., of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Pine Ridge Reservation); and the visionary work of Nathan James Little Wounded, a member of the Minneconjou Band, which resides on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation of South Dakota.
Each artist works within the traditional visual language of their heritage, where sign, symbol, and material hold mystical and spiritual weight through the expert handling of quills, beads, hide, paint and dye.
Among the larger items are Grandfather Quill Skull by Lakota artist John Zephier and the Vietnam Honoring Skull, a prayer created by McLeod honoring the Lakota men who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. There are also four robes of buffalo and elk hide. Two are McLeod’s efforts to illuminate stories of past events. The other are by Kevin Fast Horse, Sr., who first learned traditional scatter beading in apprentice to his father and uncles. The buffalo and elk robes are considered strong medicine for the wearer, recalling the significance of spirit animals in the Lakota culture.
Also on display are three drums and other implements by Nathan James Little Wounded, a self-taught artist who has received national attention for his visionary approach to traditional practices. One of the works, “Hand Drum with Little Person Sitting,” visualizes the Canoti (chawn-oh-tee-lah). These ferocious “little people” live in various trees and caves and are part of Sioux legend.
The opening of the exhibit coincides with a visit by Donovin Sprague, an author and historian, who will work with Culver Woodcraft Camp staff and campers. A part-time instructor at Black Hills State University, Sprague has written eight books for the Images of America series and several articles on American Indian Studies. He will be working with the Indian Lore, Indian Dance, and Indian Crafts classes. Sprague is expected to visit during July 1-15.
The Crisp Center hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and by appointment on weekends. For more information, please call Nowalk at (574) 842-8278.