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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 25, 2001 - Issue 43


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Artists Unite for the Big Picture


 by Ron Jackson Lawton Bureau Oklahoman Online-August 13, 2001


Cheyenne Cultural Center Director Lawrence Hart discusses a painting with artist Rachel Megli. Staff Photo by Chieko Hara

CLINTON — Sixteen Cheyenne and Arapaho artists recently were commissioned to paint important scenes from the history of their tribes. Their work will be showcased in a new gallery under construction at the Cheyenne Cultural Center in Clinton.

Maybe a 17th painting — one showing the 16 artists at work together — will be added to the collection.

"This is an unprecedented gathering," said Lawrence Hart, orchestrator of the alliance and director of the center. "This is the first time Cheyenne and Arapaho artists have been brought together in such a large number for something of this magnitude."

Hart’s pride is evident whenever he talks about the alliance. He first envisioned a project of this nature years ago, but said he could never find the funding to finance his vision.

All that changed earlier this year when he landed a grant with the National Endowment for the Arts under the Challenge America Program titled "Positive Alternatives for Youth: Creative Links."

The grant is designed to involve America’s youth, which Hart did June 16 when most of the artists met to determine which historic scenes they would feature.

Hart invited Cheyenne and Arapaho children to participate in the discussions. Topics ranged from the Cheyenne’s sacred, ancient prophet, Sweet Medicine, to the massacres at Sand Creek and Washita.

"Some of our youth need to know their history," Hart said. "So it was good to see everyone come together. I thought the discussions went better than planned. We talked about some of the most significant scenes from our history."

"Some of the topics we thought we might not ought to touch were those that dealt with the deep, spiritual aspects of our culture, like the Medicine Bundle, which is unique among tribes, and scenes from inside our sweat lodges."

Artists Rachael Megli and Roberta White Shield were chosen to depict what most consider the two greatest tragedies in Cheyenne and Arapaho history — the massacres at Sand Creek in 1864 and Washita in 1868. Megli and White Shield are the only two woman artists in the group.

"The two women will deal with the two most traumatic episodes in our history," Hart said. "I thought that was, perhaps, fitting."

Megli, 20, admits she is overwhelmed by the project and the collection of talent Hart has assembled.

"I’m very honored," Megli said. "As one of the younger ones, I’m honored that I have been asked to be included in a group with so many renown artists. All are different and unique in their own way. Some are abstract artists. We have realistic and contemporary and ledger art."

The lineup is a who’s who in Cheyenne and Arapaho art.

Harvey Pratt, a forensic artist for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, will have the honor of painting the first historic scene. Pratt’s painting will depict his tribal ancestors migrating westward from the Northeast before to European contact.

Also among the selected scenes will be the first time a Cheyenne captured a horse (B.J. Stepp), the alliance between the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes (Charles Pratt), and contact with explorers Meriweather Lewis and William Clark in 1804 while the Cheyennes lived in the Black Hills (Ben Little Raven).

Other artists involved are Robert Bushy, Brent Learned, Merlin Thunder, James Black, Amos Beaver, Matt Learned, Chester Old Bear, Gordon Yellowman Sr. and Travis Kauley.

Edgar Heap of Birds, a professor of art at the University of Oklahoma, will conclude the collection with a computer-generated collage of scenes from the past, present and future.

Each artist will receive $1,000 and retain copyrights for their work. The 16 paintings will be housed in a new, $100,000 gallery. They will be unveiled at a grand opening later this year.

"I want to unveil each painting one by one, and have people turn in a circle as they see each one," Hart said. "I think it’s going to be impressive. I anticipate the special room where the paintings are to become a sacred precinct."

   Maps by Travel

Cheyenne Cultural Center
You are welcome here in this exhibit house

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

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