By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU
Last summer, we launched the #JesuitMuseums initiative in our weekly e-newsletter, AJCU Higher Ed News, to highlight the significant collections of art on our campuses at a time when in-person visits were prohibited due to the pandemic. This issue of Connections takes a deeper dive by examining how the arts and academics at Jesuit colleges and universities are interconnected both online and in-person.
In a 2015 article for Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, artist and historian Rev. Tom Lucas, S.J. wrote, “Although Ignatius Loyola didn’t have an artistic bone in his body, he bequeathed to the Jesuit order and its institutions a sensibility, an appreciation for the revelatory power of the imagination that was a breakthrough in the Western spiritual tradition. Unlike so many earlier spiritual writers who warned against fantasy or the use of images, Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises encourages retreatants actively to use their imaginations as well as their intellects.”
In 2020, the pandemic necessitated curators and professors to put their imaginations to use by transitioning exhibits and classes online. In this new “way of proceeding,” Jesuit colleges and universities were able to model flexibility and adaptability all in an effort to help their communities explore new representations of our culture and understand how art can help us to make sense of our world.
We are grateful for the articles by this issue’s contributors, several of whom are members of the newly-formed AJCU Art Museum Directors Consortium. They will contribute to the Summer 2021 “installation” of #JesuitMuseums, which will return to AJCU Higher Ed News in June.
By Glori Simmons, Director of the Thacher Gallery at the University of San Francisco
Installation view of The future now, Related Tactics, 2020, from the exhibition, Become The Monuments That Cannot Fall (photo courtesy of the University of San Francisco)
Statutes of Liberty, Antwan “Banks” Williams, 2020, from the exhibition, A Matter of Liberation: Artwork from Prison Renaissance, 2020
DeJon, Eddie Herena, from the exhibition, A Matter of Liberation: Artwork from Prison Renaissance, 2018
Poster detail from The future now, Related Tactics, 2020, from the exhibition, Become The Monuments That Cannot Fall
Woman #1, Adam Chin, 202, from the exhibition, Pulled Apart
East Mojave: Inoperative Devices, Cynthia Hooper, 2004, from the exhibition, Pulled Apart
Chalk Mandala, Nell Herbert, 2020, from Thacher Art Hour, led by gallery manager Nell Herbert
Gee’s Bend Projects, 2020, from Thacher Art Hour, led by USF student Somer Taylor
“How will you be different when the masks come off?”
-Related Tactics, The future now
The University of San Francisco’s Thacher Gallery is a public art gallery at the heart of the Gleeson Library-Geschke Center. We present five exhibitions per year, featuring California artists and collections. Our mission is to bring creativity, scholarship and community together, and our location—its function as a crossroads—has always been key to this.
Like everyone, we have missed the intended and unintended encounters that occur in our physical location. As we prepare for our return to this space after more than a year away, Related Tactics’ question of transformation resonates for us. The masks may remain for a while longer, but we have all changed, and so have our approaches at the Thacher Gallery. Uncertainty has taught us to slow down and given us distance to value the new relationships we have forged, and dislocation to re-examine our connections to the communities beyond our walls.
From the beginning of the pandemic, we understood that art was essential, and that our role as a gallery was to find ways that art could support the University’s pivot to distance learning and working from home. We developed Art Hour, an informal artmaking workshop via Zoom, to bring college students, university staff, and isolated community members together. Our early projects included sidewalk murals and handmade posters thanking essential workers. Depending on the day, it has been a place where friends meet up, curious students try their hands at a new skill, and working parents and their children take a break together. While we look forward to adapting this program once we are back, what won’t change is the sense of experimentation, acceptance, and community that these sessions provide.
Like our counterparts at Jesuit college and university museum galleries, we have shifted to online exhibitions and programs. The gallery’s guiding theme for the 2020-21 academic year has been the examination of systems, seen and unseen, which has also inspired the gallery to take a look at its own structure and strategies. With each exhibition, we have discovered new places for art beyond the gallery walls we so miss, and the importance of keeping these walls permeable in order to respond to the cultural moment.
Under the leadership of curator Antwan “Banks” Williams, A Matter of Liberation: Artwork from Prison Renaissance went on display from August through November 2020. This virtual exhibition gave voice to artists who had lived or were living hidden from society behind the high fences of California prisons. The public conversations were frank and intimate, centering the artists’ voices to define liberation. Gallery manager Nell Herbert created a tour that we brought into thirteen virtual classes, reaching nearly 250 students. After a summer defined by police violence and racial reckoning, these tours became listening sessions, and the exhibition a way for students to begin to unravel elements of systemic racism and its link to prison. The artworks and interviews from Prison Renaissance made these sensitive conversations more immediate, while allowing for individual interpretation and understanding: the art met the students where they were.
For our next exhibition, Become The Monuments That Cannot Fall, we continued with our usual model of collaboration, this time with a cohort of Museum Studies graduate students, led by curator and instructor, Astria Suparak, and the art collective, Related Tactics. Through collective member Nathan Watson, Related Tactics worked directly with his neighborhood of Bayview, an historically Black district of San Francisco, that has also been home to the Yelamu and Ramaytush Ohlone, a Chinese shrimping settlement, and African American shipyard workers. Related Tactics created colorful posters with meditations that linked the violence of last summer, including George Floyd’s death, with the neighborhood’s past experiences with redlining and police brutality. The posters (printed in Chinese, English and Spanish) were exhibited in the windows of fourteen businesses and residences along a one-mile stretch of Third Street, visible to passersby. Like the words that begin this article, the messages suggest remembrance and healing. With this project, Related Tactics shifted their own tactics, as well as the Gallery’s, expanding the exhibition from a survey of past work to include a site-responsive installation that brought us outside of our walls.
Inspired by these experiences, we are continuing these efforts to reach beyond our usual audience and collaborators this spring. Partnering with the University’s new engineering program, our current exhibition, Pulled Apart, has paired artists with USF engineers for content and public conversations. These exchanges have benefited the artists, engineers and students, helping to break down the barriers between STEM disciplines and the arts. The student organizers of our annual junior and senior art showcase are using humor to encourage self-reflection and self-expression during these times with their prompt: “unmute yourself.”
In these past twelve months, the Gallery’s programs have led us beyond the our white walls and double doors to the gates of San Quentin State Prison and the storefronts of San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, into the technical realms of the University’s new Engineering program, and the kitchens and living rooms of our own students. This is a privilege and intimacy we do not take lightly.
What could have been a year defined by distance and disconnection, has instead become a year of nonstop conversation and relationship-building, focused on the question: How will we be different when our masks come off? We will be patient with the unknown and seek its opportunities. We will let the outside in and the inside out. We will slow down, ask questions, and listen to what our students and visitors need.
In one of Related Tactics’ posters, the collective offers this message that will also be our guide as we move forward: Take time to pause, heal, and rest. Do not mistake this for giving in or letting up.
By Julia Maltz, Multimedia Copywriter at Saint Joseph’s University
When you envision Saint Joseph’s University’s campus, nestled perfectly between Philadelphia and the Main Line in Pennsylvania, you might picture blossoming trees lining Drexel Library, fierce evergreens hugging Barbelin Hall, or a sun-soaked quad — but do an arboretum, art museum and spectacular art collection come to mind?
Art has always been at the core of Saint Joseph’s. “Before there were classrooms and laboratories, even before there were students and faculty, there was art at Saint Joseph’s,” noted Carmen Croce, curator of the University art collection and director of Saint Joseph’s University Press.
The Jesuit art collection in Philadelphia can be traced back to 1776 when Rev. Joseph Greaton, S.J., founder of Old St. Joseph’s Church, received three paintings from England. Succeeding pastors, including Rev. Felix Barbelin, S.J., and Rev. James Ryder, S.J. (who would later become the first and second presidents of Saint Joseph’s College), enhanced the collection with new gifts and purchases. Over the years, cherished gifts from University alumni and friends have also transformed and diversified the collection.
Today, Saint Joseph’s art collection is teeming with remarkable pieces. It includes about 3,500 works, and has particular strengths in Colonial Mexican painting; 19th- and 20th-century European stained glass; and Greco-Roman, Gothic and High Renaissance bronze and plaster casts, among many other areas. Some significant examples include rare, full-scale High Renaissance casts, Niki de Saint Phalle sculptures, Andy Warhol screenprints, more than 150 Warhol Polaroid photographs, and plaster casts on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Both works from the collection and student pieces are proudly displayed around campus in places like Regis Hall, home to the Office of the President, the Maguire-Wolfington Welcome Center, and the Post Learning Commons. The University also has two galleries located in Merion Hall and Boland Hall. The Merion Hall Gallery hosts seven shows per year; the first six feature professional artists and the seventh show, the senior arts thesis exhibition, highlights senior art majors’ and minors’ projects. The Boland Hall Gallery showcases alumni work, student work and summer scholar student pieces.
A Longtime Partnership and a New Art Museum
In 2018, the University and the Barnes Foundation celebrated a long-term educational affiliation with the launch of the Barnes Arboretum at Saint Joseph’s University, an educational partnership expanding opportunities for students and the surrounding community to engage in horticulture education and the arts.
The property, located on the Merion side of campus, was bought in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, M.D., and his wife, Laura Leggett Barnes. The two shared a passion for the arts and horticulture, and the Barnes Arboretum is a testament to their legacy. When the Barneses purchased the property, it already housed a collection of specimen trees that its previous owner, Captain Joseph Lapsley Wilson, had started assembling in the 1880s. More than a century later, the arboretum offers 12 acres of diverse woody and herbaceous plants.
The arboretum is home to the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum, named in 2018 in honor of Frannie Maguire, wife of Saint Joseph’s alumnus James J. Maguire ’58, for their lifelong support of the University and Frannie’s passion for the arts, education and culture. The museum will house pieces of the University’s permanent collection and will be a dynamic gallery set within the historic mansion and arboretum, integrated with the University campus.
Frannie Maguire, who passed away in February 2020, devoted her life to supporting programs that connect arts and scholarship. She was also a prolific artist herself, producing hundreds of paintings, sculptures and busts — many of Saint Joseph’s Jesuit leaders. A bust sculpted by Maguire of Michael J. Smith ’72, for whom the University’s chapel is named, was gifted to the University and is permanently displayed in the Chapel of St. Joseph.
In a 2019 Saint Joseph’s magazine article, Maguire’s daughter, Megan Maguire, president and CEO of the Maguire Foundation, said, “[My mother] enjoys a range of creativity. She looks at every piece of art and every experience with fresh eyes, as if she is seeing it for the first time. It is a great reminder of how you should look at life.”
Students in Saint Joseph’s Art and Art History Department are able to take advantage of the partnership and use the Barnes’ grounds and beauty as inspiration for their projects. The department offers courses on a plethora of subjects, including art history, graphic design, painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, pottery and more.
In addition, the University also offers a three-year Horticultural Certificate Program that adopts a comprehensive approach to horticultural science, methods and design, and uses the arboretum and its greenhouse as laboratories. A variety of other classes and workshops — such as photography and horticultural illustration — are offered for amateur gardeners and horticulture enthusiasts alike. In addition, the arboretum is open for visitors to enjoy the grounds through the seasons.
Art is integrated at Saint Joseph’s University in all facets — in and around campus, in its Jesuit history, and through its academic programs and opportunities for students and the community. In the spirit of Frannie Maguire, may we all experience these opportunities with fresh eyes.
By Allison Nitch, Senior Writer, Seattle University
A fusion of art and science is underway at Seattle University. The curation of artwork exploring the interface of visual arts, life sciences, digital technology, engineering and math will soon imbue a sense of excitement for scientific learning and discovery for all who enter the newest and largest building on campus.
When the new Jim and Janet Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation officially opens next fall, students will be greeted by a cutting-edge collection of contemporary art curated by a 13-member interdisciplinary committee that includes Seattle U faculty knowledgeable in fine arts, art history and science—all working in consultation with external collectors, artists and thought leaders.
Rev. Josef Venker, S.J., MFA, fine arts assistant professor and curator of the university’s permanent art collection, leads the project and serves as the committee chair. Jim Hembree, senior director of development for University Initiatives, guides the committee’s work with external donors and collectors.
Over the years, Seattle U has “developed experience and a track record of having an excellent public art collection,” says Hembree, who has been involved with building Seattle U’s campus art collection since the mid-1990s.
And after 27 years at Seattle U, Fr. Venker has developed strong ties with the local art scene. “Actively building relationships with the art community [and commercial galleries] is so important,” he notes. “There’s a real benefit…and a perspective these organizations and dealers bring. I may know an artist for a few years, but they know them for 15 or 20 years. They understand the context within the larger Seattle experience.”
The committee expects 40-60 new artworks and art from the university’s permanent collection, which will be installed in the Sinegal Center and the refurbished Bannan and Engineering Buildings. A total of 49 art walls in the center have been identified for two-dimensional works. In addition, three multi-story interior spaces and an outdoor plaza will provide venues for sculpture and site-specific installations. Among the acquisitions confirmed to date are works by Alfredo Arreguín, Mary Ann Peters, Dennis Evans, Rachel Yo, Michael Schultheis, Intima Rosa Machita, barry johnson, and Craig van den Bosch.
Through engagement with alumni, trustees, art collectors and patrons, Hembree and Fr. Venker cultivate relationships that will allow the end-users of the Sinegal Center to have a sense of ownership of the art that will ultimately adorn the various public and classroom spaces. Themes factoring into this collection have been “composed very intentionally,” such as sustainability, cosmologies and technology, faith and science, diversity and racial equity, says Fr. Venker.
Featuring BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) artists ranks high among the committee’s goals, which happen to align with “narrative through art and symbols”—one of the main priorities featured in the LIFT SU initiative (Listen and learn, Impact through intentional action, Fail forward, Transform together). This includes commissioning portraiture featuring BIPOC individuals who have contributed to science, math and engineering so students “see themselves imaged in the art collection” … and see BIPOC community members who “have been part of these disciplines,” says Fr. Venker.
In addition, a proposal has been submitted to feature a mural within the center’s Billodue Makerspace that is collectively produced by BIPOC students from campus clubs and organizations. “Part of our growth in terms of racial justice and equity is to tell the story [visually],” explains Hembree.
As of January 2021, the committee is halfway through its art acquisitions, while fundraising for the collection continues. Fr. Venker says, “It’s a terrific and exciting opportunity to expand the collection dramatically, both in terms of the wall space and exploring the interface between the visual arts and the sciences in a way that hasn’t been possible in any of the other collections.”
To learn more about ways to support the Sinegal Center art collection, please contact Jim Hembree at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Office of Annual Giving at (206) 296-6301.
Contributed by the Fairfield University Museum of Art and Fairfield University Office of Media Relations
Marsden Hartley, Give Us This Day, 1938, oil on canvas. Lent by Art Bridges.
Alexander Wilson (Scottish-American, 1766-1813), W.H. Lizars (Scottish, 1788-1859), engraver, Whittaker, Treacher & Arnot, publisher.
American Ornithology; or The Natural History of the Birds of the United States, published 1832, London Wild Turkey, Male and Female (Meleagris gallopavo).
Engraving with original hand coloring, 8 3/4 x 51/2 inches (sheet), Lent by the Pequot Library, Southport, accession no. 2054, Gift of Mrs. Elbert B. Monroe, Image Courtesy of Special Collections, Pequot Library.
Todd McGrain (American, b. 1961), Auk Egg, n.d., Photograph, 24 x 20 inches, Lent by the artist.
Todd McGrain (American, b. 1961), Heath Hen, n.d., Bronze, 19 x 13 x 9 inches, Lent by the artist.
Todd McGrain (American, b. 1961), Feather, n.d., Photograph, 20 x 24 inches, Lent by the artist.
Morgan Bulkeley (American, b. 1944), Rose-breasted Grosbeak Mask, 2012, Gouache on paper, 12 x 9 inches, Lent by the artist.
Rick Shaefer (American, b. 1948), Barn Owl, 2019, Charcoal, colored pencil and highlight on toned, Canson paper, 30 x 24 inches, Lent by the artist, courtesy of Sears Peyton Gallery, ©Rick Shaefer.
The Fairfield University Art Museum’s latest exhibition is making headlines: touted as a show “in top-flight form” by The Wall Street Journal. Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks features paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and natural history specimens from the early 19th century through the present day, and explores environmental issues through avian art. Beyond merely connecting us to the natural world, the artworks in this exhibition remind us of the toll taken on bird habitats since the beginning of European colonialism in North America: how the delicate ecosystems that allow birds of all species to thrive came under attack, as birds were hunted for food and ornamentation, and their habitats were destroyed.
Curated by Museum Director Carey Weber and Fairfield University Biology professors Brian Walker, Ph.D., Jim Biardi, Ph.D., and Tod Osier, Ph.D., the exhibition (on view from October 2020 to August 2021) complements the installation on Fairfield’s campus of The Lost Bird Project by artist Todd McGrain. These monumental sculptures, created as public memorials to North American birds driven to extinction in modern times, present a chronicle of humankind’s impact on our changing world and a moving record of dwindling biodiversity.
The “lost birds” section of Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks features studies for McGrain’s sculptures, a Great Auk skeleton lent by the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, and paintings of lost birds by contemporary artists including Walton Ford, Ann Craven, Morgan Bulkeley, and Alberto Rey.
The “living birds” section of the exhibition includes specimens, or study skins, of a variety of common, local birds, also coming from the Peabody. Highlights include Marsden Hartley’s Give Us This Day and Matthew Day Jackson’s portfolio, There Will Come Soft Rains, which draws from numerous sources—including old Audubon copper plates—to explore both preservation and apocalyptic destruction. Additional artworks include works by Alexander Wilson, John Gould, Emily Eveleth, James Prosek, Rick Shaefer, Carolyn Blackwood, Christy Rupp, Christina Empedocles, and Paul Villinski.
“Some of these works were created specifically for this exhibition, which has been really exciting,” noted Weber. “It was wonderful to work with contemporary artists and see their enthusiasm for creating work in response to the environmentalist themes of this exhibition.”
Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks celebrates local birds that we know well and continue to enjoy, while being reminded that worldwide, over 150 bird species have already been driven to extinction, and an estimated 1,200 more are estimated to follow over the next century if action is not taken. “One of the only links we have to the birds that have gone extinct are these images and sculptures,” noted co-curator, Dr. Brian Walker. “We should feel fortunate that the greater proportion of the work presented in this exhibition depicts birds we still have the opportunity to see in the wild. Here’s hoping we can keep them in that category.”
Wall labels and brochure texts, which are bilingual (Spanish), coupled with virtual and video tours, and programming address how specific birds in the exhibition contribute to the ecosystem, the threats they face in their habitats, and the ongoing efforts to preserve these species and the ecosystems of which they are part. This unique interdisciplinary exhibition demonstrates the ways in which art and science can join forces to raise awareness not only of the importance of saving bird habitats, but the preservation of our broader natural environment.
The museum is proud to partner with the Pequot Library, the Fairfield chapter of Connecticut Audubon, and the Greenwich Audubon Center in presenting the programming for this exhibition, all of which is recorded and available on the museum’s YouTube channel. Click here to view the exhibit’s brochure as a PDF.
By Jennifer Udell, Ph.D., Curator of University Art and the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art
When William D. Walsh (FCRH, 1951) and his wife, Jane, decided to give their collection of antiquities from the Mediterranean basin to Fordham University in 2006, the idea was to create a truly unique learning opportunity for students. What better way to learn about the Classical world, than through its material culture, in addition to texts like The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid?
Upon the opening of the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art in December 2007, the collection was swiftly incorporated into the curricula not only of the Art History and Classics departments, but also those of the History, Theology, Philosophy, and English departments, demonstrating that 2,500-year old works of art are able to provide an important lens through which to study disciplines with a much more contemporary focus.
Since 2016, the museum and its collection have been the center of a Curatorial/Museum Studies seminar taught approximately every other year. Though the theme of each of the exhibitions to come out of these seminars has been different, the goals are the same: to introduce students to all aspects of curating an exhibition while examining how museums approach the display of ancient material; what makes for an effective installation (and, conversely, what detracts from the viewer experience); and how the particular type of institution impacts the way art can and should be displayed. The seminar also gives undergraduate students the opportunity to handle ancient art.
The first student-curated show, entitled The Classical World in 24 Objects, was, in essence, an exhibition of highlights from the collection. The objects chosen for this show formed a disparate group, which included Roman imperial portraiture, coins, utilitarian vessels for transporting oil, luxury bronze household items, and painted pottery in a variety of shapes. They came together not only under the rubric of “Highlights,” but also for the unique ways that each group reflects an aspect of life in antiquity. Importantly, by presenting this diverse array of objects together, without privileging one place, period, or civilization over another, the show provided a snapshot of the museum’s collection, along with a balanced visual history of the ancient cultures from which the museum takes its name.
In 2018, the museum received a generous gift of 118 objects, comprising figurines, ancient glass, and pottery vessels ranging in date from ca. 1450 B.C.E — 2nd C.E., from Rev. Oscar Magnan, S.J. The donation was the focus of the Museum Studies seminar of 2019, and the impetus for our second exhibition, Material Microcosms of the Ancient Mediterranean. The student-curators of Material Microcosms chose 36 objects to include in the show, drawing from the terracotta and bronze figurines in Fr. Magnan’s collection. By working together to decide how the cases were to be configured and why certain objects belong together, they demonstrated a clear curatorial vision that sought to pull out common themes from a rich and varied group of ancient artifacts. Some objects, for example, speak to the rich tradition of burial offerings, or relay the cultural importance of ancient myth, while others explore the importance of dress, or exploit the concept of movement in static figurines. Each object is, in its own right, an encapsulation – a microcosm – of a larger thematic or pictorial trend within the broader framework of the material culture of the ancient Mediterranean basin.
Our current exhibition is perhaps our most challenging and arguably our most important, from an ethical point of view. Facing the Past: Reexamining the Modern History of Objects in the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art is the first exhibition to tackle the issue of provenance. As is the case with most, if not all, museums with collections of ancient art, the provenance (ownership history) as well as provenience (findspots) of a number of our objects is unknown. In other instances, works of art may have suspected connections to clandestine digs or unscrupulous art dealers (this was brought to our attention by the art theft division of the Carabinieri, or Italian state police force).
The student-curators of this latest exhibition took a hard look at 15 vases in the Fordham collection, about which significant questions exist. They sought to recreate the circuitous journey of these objects from tomb to museum vitrine, often without any solid information on the actual findspot. With scant accompanying paperwork for the vases, save for William Walsh’s own purchase receipts and the occasional auction record or bibliographic reference, they worked to determine how and if these objects fit within the muddled continuum of the illicit international antiquities market.
The students performed their research in the middle of the pandemic with limited access to resources, except for whatever could be located online, or obtained through interlibrary loan. The demands of the exhibition theme required them to wade through foreign databases, familiarize themselves with relevant international cultural patrimony laws, treaties, and court decisions, and to consider the question of whether the Fordham antiquities museum should display ancient objects that lack a secure archaeological context and documented history of ownership. In other words, a problematic situation for the Fordham Museum presented an ideal, real-life learning opportunity that confronts curators of ancient art every day.
Facing the Past redefined the pedagogical mission of the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art in a way that is specific and suited to a Jesuit institution guided by issues of social justice and ethical practices. Specifically, the current exhibition is a case study in how to treat a formerly private collection, which has since been made public. This means confronting the potentially unsavory modern history of some of the material in our possession and, if necessary, returning the object back to its country of origin. In the past, Fordham has worked with the Italian government; the university transferred ownership of a cinerary urn back to Italy, but the object remains here on long-term loan. This exhibition, and the provenance research accomplished by the student-curators gives visual form to Fordham’s commitment as an ethical steward of the cultural heritage of objects in its collection.
By Mary Maxon, Director of the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School
Native American art cannot be defined by one aesthetic, medium, or tradition alone. It is constantly changing, reflecting the diverse cultures and experiences of Native artists themselves.
Over the last five decades, the Red Cloud Indian Art Show has celebrated the continuum of Native art—and honored the artists who create it.
Held on the Pine Ridge Reservation in western South Dakota, the Red Cloud Indian Art Show is the largest and longest-running Native art exhibition of its kind—and one of only a few held in an indigenous community. Hundreds of artists from tribal nations across North America have shared their work through the Red Cloud show, in categories ranging from painting and photography, to beadwork and quillwork.
The Art Show began with Rev. Theodore “Ted” Zuern, S.J. (1921–2007), who became president of Red Cloud (a Catholic elementary and high school administered in partnership between Jesuits and the Lakota people) in 1968. As an educator, Fr. Ted had long recognized the need to further integrate Lakota culture, language, and art into campus life—an instinct which led him to collaborate with Robert “Bob” Savage to organize the inaugural Art Show. That first show was modest and informal—but it accomplished something groundbreaking. By allowing “any American Indian 14 years or older” to enter, it encouraged young artists just beginning their careers to share their artistic vision, alongside more seasoned and professional artists. This approach continues today, building community and sharing amongst the artists, no matter where they may be in their careers.
To further the goal of supporting artists and keeping Native art in Indian Country, rather than in museums far away from the reservation, Red Cloud Indian School staff purchased three award-winning pieces from the first annual Red Cloud Indian Art Show. Red Cloud’s campus bookkeeper, the incomparable Br. C.M. Simon, S.J., took on the task of managing future Art Shows, a role he would hold for decades to come. He continued to support and celebrate newer Native artists by purchasing works from the Art Show and other sources.
In 1982, The Heritage Center was formed to protect and grow that collection. What began with those three early pieces now includes an estimated 10,000 pieces of Lakota and other Native arts, from priceless historical artifacts to cutting-edge modern works.
Through the years, Br. Simon not only built a significant collection of Native American art objects that would eventually become the permanent collection of The Heritage Center, he learned more and more about how the world is seen through Lakota eyes. He became a scholar in the field of Native Arts, and began a tradition of creating formal exhibitions to share throughout the region and country. He also ran the center’s gift shop, which has since become a strong program in capacity-building and providing access to market for many members of the Pine Ridge communities. From 1982 until his death in 2006, Br. Simon devoted all his considerable talent and energy to building up both the Heritage Center and the Red Cloud Indian Art Show.
The Red Cloud Indian Art Show’s long-standing mission serves to create opportunities for all Native artists to show their work and share their voices. By bringing new visitors to Pine Ridge, creating traveling exhibitions for galleries and museums, and developing cutting-edge arts education programs, it encourages new audiences to experience the power of Lakota and other Native arts. And with each passing decade, the show continues to celebrate each new generation of Native artists by giving them a platform to share their work with the world.
But what sets the show apart is its inclusion of all Native artists. Its purpose is to create opportunities for them to explore their talents and share their perspectives, regardless of their previous exposure to the art world. Grounded in community and culture, the Red Cloud Indian Art Show allows the artists themselves to guide the narrative on Native art and indigenous experience.
The current rules to enter the show simply state that the artists must be at least 18 years old and enrolled in a federally recognized tribe (per federal law); in addition, all of the work must be for sale. After all of the artwork is received at Red Cloud each year, the works are juried by Native Arts professionals and practitioners in several different categories, who also determine monetary awards for participating artists. Proceeds from the Art Show sales are used to support individual artists, as well as the programs of The Heritage Center.
The Heritage Center is typically open seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day, so that visitors in the area may enjoy the amazing talent and creativity of Native artists from across the country. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 continuing to sweep the nation, we are unable to host visitors to our gallery at this time. However, we will still support the art and artists whom we serve through the Art Show through online gallery tours, presentations, interviews, awards, and opportunities for the public to purchase their work. And all works entered in the 53rd Annual Red Cloud Indian Art Show will be available to purchase through our online store at RedCloudSchool.shop. Activities will be presented and made acessible through social media and our website, redcloudart.show.
By Jenny Smulson, Vice President for Government Relations, AJCU
Federal student financial aid has long been at the center of AJCU’s advocacy agenda. Our work to help increase federal support for the Pell Grant, Federal Work Study, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) programs is done with the goal of ensuring that any student, regardless of income, can have access to a college education, Jesuit or otherwise. We champion other issues within the higher education space too, like protecting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and extending visas to international students.
Sometimes we work independently but, more often, we work in coalition with other organizations and agencies to advance policies that will benefit students and all institutions across the nation. One such agency, relevant to this particular issue of Connections, is the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This agency provides grants to organizations (e.g., nonprofits, cities, museums, and libraries) with the goals of promoting lifelong learning; building the capacity of museums and libraries to extend their reach; and increasing public access to museums and libraries. IMLS was founded (in its present form) in 1996, with the passage of the Museum and Library Services Act of 1996. This important legislation combined the functions of an independent agency (the Institute of Museum Services) and a department under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Education. This move enabled the IMLS to better foster synergy and harness the power of libraries and museums to educate, inform, and extend their reach into local communities.
In years past, several AJCU institutions have received support from the IMLS, including Loyola Marymount University’s William H. Hannon Library, which received a grant in 2016 (in partnership with San Jose State University) to support novice, academic, and research librarians. That same year, Loyola University Chicago received a National Leadership Grant for Museums, in partnership with Northwestern University, to support collaboration between the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Evanston Public Library. This grant helped the institutions to conduct research that would “incorporate objects and oral narratives into inquiry-based STEM programs for families in libraries and museums,” with the goal of advancing and understanding STEM learning.
In 2017, Marquette University received a Community Catalyst Grant, intended to “draw on the unique relationships, knowledge, networks, and spaces of museums and libraries to encourage meaningful collaborations with local non-profit and community development organizations, community associations, and individual community members.” Marquette’s grant supported a public art project to explore the importance of water to individuals and the greater community in the city of Milwaukee. Artist Mary Miss initiated dialogue among artists, scientists and local community members through her “Watermarks” project, which utilized “land art,” or the Milwaukee landscape, as its canvas.
Over the years, several other AJCU institutions have received grants from IMLS, either as leads or partners, including Georgetown University, Loyola University New Orleans, Santa Clara University and the University of Detroit Mercy. In 2017, Saint Louis University received a National Leadership Grant for Libraries, as a partner with the Missouri Botanical Garden to advance the work of the systemic botany community. And in 2020, Boston College received a Community Catalyst Grant to educate and train library workers on ways to support community members who have been or are at risk of being targets of cyber-related sexual abuse. This program, which is also aimed at prevention, represents a critical public service and public engagement on an issue of growing concern and importance.
While not exhaustive, these grants provide a slice of the kind of innovative and important academic and community projects that our AJCU institutions are pursuing through IMLS. Each of these awarded grants have helped advance the academic field by lending institutional expertise to respond to academic or community needs, as well as contributing to the good work already being done by museums and libraries to expand access to a broader number of people.
AJCU will continue to advocate for IMLS funding, in partnership with the Committee for Education Funding (CEF). AJCU believes in the power of museums and libraries to ignite learning and imagination, and to serve as community centers. They contribute to the learning landscape from pre-school all the way up through adult education. Our libraries and museums are national treasures and sources of great pride to our institutions and their local communities. To search the IMLS database or to learn more about the Institute for Museum and Library Services, please visit imls.gov/grants/awarded-grants.