The Nicolaysen Art Museum (The NIC) is currently presenting an exhibition of Native American art from The NIC’s permanent collection that was curated by students in the fall 2017 Museum Studies program at Casper College. “Walking the Artist’s Path: Process in Native American Art” will run through Feb. 4.
This exhibition explores techniques and processes used in creating Native American art work. Rather than an interpretation of design and spirituality, this show emphasizes and discusses how these artworks are constructed and the materials used to create these beautiful handmade objects. Outstanding examples in pottery, weaving, basketry, beadwork and leatherwork will be on display by traditional and contemporary Native American artists – some of worldwide recognition. Works including painting, sculpture and constructs by contemporary artists demonstrate the wide range of creative paths utilized by Native American artists.
The students’ desire in curating this exhibit was to showcase to a wide audience. When the students first approached the idea of presenting these objects they faced the obvious dilemma: All of the students are non-Natives presenting Native art; are they culturally appreciating or culturally appropriating? The art was produced by various individuals of the American West. Production dates span decades and even centuries. Attempting to imbue some kind of cultural meaning would have been reductive and an over-simplification of richly diverse groups of artists and cultures. The role of a curator is not to represent culture, but simply to present it. Instead of attempting a cultural commentary, the students chose to emphasize the skill, technique and artistry behind these objects. Too often, museum visitors are led to believe that Native artists are of the past, so they found it critical to include contemporary Native artists alongside the art of long ago. It is a privilege and honor to present these objects to visitors to The NIC, so the craftsmanship, talent and precision can be individually appreciated. Bringing these Native produced objects out of the Collections Vault and onto display allows a multiplicity of artistic voices to be heard and creativity to be embraced. Connect with this exhibit and you will discover how these artworks help make up the fabric of the West.
“The student curators are actively engaged in the pedagogy of service-learning, reaching out to the community in a manner that allows for their personal education in learning about museum work, and utilizing a portion of the significant art from The NIC’s expansive collection. We are fortunate to have these community relationships and opportunities,” said Valerie Innella-Maiers, Ph.D., instructor in museum studies and art history at Casper College.
“The NIC is thrilled that the students from Casper College chose to curate and exhibit these rarely seen items from our permanent collection,” said Ann Ruble, executive director of The NIC. “The works they chose tell a rarely told story of the creative processes used historically, and in some cases currently, by Native American artists. We hope this partnership inspires more creative exploration of our permanent collection.”
“Walking the Artist’s Path: Process in Native American Art” is in the Rosenthal Gallery at The NIC. Museum hours are Tuesday—Saturday from 10 am—5 pm and Sunday from 12:00 -4:00 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays and holidays. Admission to the museum is free to museum members as well as active military and veterans. Fees for the public are available at thenic.org.