WCU'S NEW FINE ART MUSEUM RECEIVES                                                                                              

Image: Luzene Hill in her Atlanta studio
Luzene Hill in her Atlanta studio,
photo courtesy of the artist.

CULLOWHEE – The Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University is the recipient of a $39,500 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation to establish a contemporary Native American artist exhibition series beginning this fall.

Thanks to the contribution, the museum is strengthening the art department's existing contemporary art exhibition program by adding a focus on Native American artists, said Martin DeWitt, founding director of the Fine Arts Museum. Part of Western's new Fine and Performing Arts Center, the museum is featuring “The Contemporary Native American Artist Series” as part of its inaugural season beginning in October.

“This generous grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation provides a major boost to the inaugural exhibition program by creating greater opportunity for emerging and established Native American artists, while creating greater awareness of the contributions of these artists,” DeWitt said. “Given that the center has been designed by celebrated American architect Graham Gund with inspiration from the Great Smoky Mountains and in large part as a tribute to the vital Cherokee community and its rich cultural heritage, a series of exhibitions featuring contemporary Native American artists is most appropriate.” The center has signage in Cherokee and English, and the lobby floor consists of ceramic tiles in the form of a seven-point star representing the seven Cherokee clans.

The first exhibition in the Native American series will be “Luzene Hill: New Installation and Mixed Media,” showcasing the work of Hill, a noted contemporary artist from Atlanta . It will explore Hill's Cherokee heritage and her response to Mayan concepts of time through an on-site installation, and newly created book forms, mixed media drawings and collages, DeWitt said.

Also during the inaugural year, the museum will present “Lasting Impressions,” a limited edition print portfolio created by 10 renowned Native American artists from across the country: Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne/Arapaho), Joe Fedderson (Colville), G. Peter Jemison (Cattaraugus Seneca), Truman Lowe (Ho-Chunk), Duane Slick (Ho-Chunk/Mesquakie), Mario Martinez (Yaqui), Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Flathead), Kay Walkingstick (Cherokee), Emmi Whitehorse (Navajo) and Melanie Yazzie (Navajo). The portfolio is published by Arizona State University Press, and master printer is Jack Lemon.

“These artists' works are widely recognized, both within the Native American cultural spheres and in the larger art world,” DeWitt said. “Bringing them and their work together in a collaborative effort not only showcases the strengths of the individual artists, but represents in some visual depth the state of vanguard Native American artistic consciousness at this period in time.”

The inaugural season, including the Native American series, will involve an educational component, artist residencies, and the opportunity for Cherokee community members of all ages and backgrounds to participate directly through workshops, exhibit tours, gallery internships and interaction with guest artists.

A $30 million, 122,000-square-foot showcase for the arts, the Fine and Performing Arts Center features more than 10,000 square feet of gallery and atrium exhibition space for Western's growing permanent collection and rotating exhibits of contemporary art and undergraduate and graduate student art work. The art wing of the building includes studios, classrooms and office space for Western's art department, and is home to a new master of fine arts degree program now being offered with noted visiting faculty artists from across the nation. The center includes a 1,000-seat auditorium capable of hosting Broadway-quality productions, which will open in October.

In addition to “The Contemporary Native American Artist Series,” the museum will kick off its inaugural season with several exhibitions, beginning with “Worldviews: Selections from the Collection and New Acquisitions,” showcasing Western's growing fine art collection that includes major work and new acquisitions by emerging and acclaimed local, regional, national and international artists. Also on tap are “Joel Philip Myers: Studio Glass Installations,” featuring two provocative bodies of work by Myers, a renowned studio glass artist, and “Strange Beauty: New Perspectives,” with work by Western art graduates.

For more information about “The Contemporary Native American Artist Series” and other exhibitions, call DeWitt at (828) 227-3591, e-mail mdewitt@wcu.edu , or see the Web site: www.wcu.edu/fapac .

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Last modified: Friday, July 8, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Western Carolina University