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An art exhibition featuring works from Native American artists is touring Wyoming

Episcopal Church in Wyoming

A touring art exhibition of contemporary artists from Native American tribes traditionally based in the Great Plains is making its way through the Cowboy State. It’s currently housed at the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper, where it’s been since earlier this month until it departs in mid-March.

Grounded: Restoring our world through a Sacred Harmony with the earth and each other” features the works of 15 Native American artists.

“It's an outstanding collection of work by very gifted artists,” said Paul-Gordon Chandler, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Wyoming and one of the exhibit’s creators. “Most are award winning artists coming from eight tribes in this Great Plains region and it broadens our worldview, and I think there's great wisdom that's taught through not only the work, but also their artists statements that describe what they were intending to do through the work…about how we should live more harmoniously together, as we look to the future. So it's really about embracing Indigenous wisdom to enable us to live well into the future.”

The exhibit came about after Chandler met with Robert Martinez, a Northern Arapaho artist and curator of the exhibit whose work is exhibited. Months of planning ensued to get all the logistics of the exhibit worked out. Getting venues lined up was somewhat easier, each provide unique opportunities for visitors from those communities to connect with it.

“At each venue, the venue serves really as a catalyst for a number of programs and events to be organized by the host that actually relate to the specific community that it's in, to expand in many ways, the reach of the exhibition, and to address issues and to provide the opportunity for dialogue and discussion and conversation about the exhibition’s theme,” Chandler said. “So, that's everything from artist talks to film screenings here at the Nic[olysen Art Museum]. For example, we'll have a native poetry night, where we bring some Indigenous poets in, a native dance event. So, it varies but really, in many ways, looking at other aspects of the arts, not just the visual arts and kind of coming at the exhibition's theme in various ways.”

It will travel to the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne, the Center for the Arts in Jackson, the Washakie Museum in Worland, and the Community Fine Arts Center in Rock Springs.

“[How] the whole exhibition came about is that we have an arts initiative at the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, known as ArtSpirit, and behind it is really the belief that the arts have a transformational role that they can play in our society,” he said. “And so this is our first big exhibition and it features 15 remarkable Native American contemporary artists from eight tribes in and around the Great Plains region. It's focused on really our connectedness to the earth, and everything else upon it, and, in a sense, our groundedness, or a new sense of responsible and intentional living.”

The exhibit will also be exhibited in Washington, D.C. at American University before making international stops, heading to Leicester and London in the United Kingdom as well as the Middle East. The exhibit will continue its tour into mid-2025.

“It's allowing the rest of the world to benefit and learn from our Native American sisters and brothers who have a tremendous amount to teach us about what it means to be in harmony with the earth and all creation upon it,” he said.

Showcasing artists and promoting arts as a way to connect peoples domestically and internationally is a newer venture that the church has undertaken.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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