Today’s Native American Art in New England

Guest blog by Dawn Spears,Program Manager, Native Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) 

The Native Arts program at NEFA has partnered with the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center(MPMRC) on Native New England Now, an exhibit featuring many of New England’s Native American artists who have been supported through NEFA’s Native Arts program. The exhibit is up through January 4, 2014.

Cradleboard by Julia Marden, 2007.Photo by Doug Currie Spoon carved by Annawon Weeden, 1998. Photo by Doug Currie

This is a rare opportunity for an organization to be able to showcase the work it supports, and we are grateful for the partnership and expertise of MPMRC. It allows the visitor a quick immersion into our world, to showcase our artists and the work that is happening now. The work here and the work supported in our program represent our master artists, our elders, our youth, our emerging artists, and those in between.

The exhibit of NEFA-supported work, which has been a goal of mine for a while, was the result of a conversation with MPMRC. Fast forward through a lot of work by the museum and NEFA staff together: contacting grantees, other museums, working on image collection and object curation, and collecting the artist statements.  It’s been a true community effort that would not have happened without the support of our artists, the museum, and those who have loaned from their collections (the Abbe Museum, the Hood Museum), or their own private collection. It was an intense and exciting period, but with an amazing team and eyes focused on the opening, I could not be more proud of the result.

Decorative covered vase basket, 2007 by Jeremy Frey. Photo by Jeremy Frey

Personally, I can’t say enough about the art that is happening in New England. It’s our home, and what you see in this exhibit really represents the love of our land and its gifts. The work that is happening represents this connection to our land, our resources, our cultures and heritage, and, in reality, to our future.

It was such an honor that so many of the exhibited artists attended the opening reception, along with  program advisors, funders, museum officials, NEFA board members, and my own NEFA colleagues. I’m hopeful that we will have similar participation at the artist panel discussion on November 16 and the holiday artisan market on November 30!

Native artists posing on the stairs at museum. Photo by Ann Wicks

This exhibit shows the work of 28 of the over 80 artists and organizations – representing over 35 tribes – that have received grants from NEFA’s Native Arts program. You can learn more about the artists in the companion book we  published, but the best way for you to really understand the work that has come from this love – and really see the talent and creativity of our amazing artists – is to see it in person.

NEFA’s Native Arts program supports projects that nurture artistic exchange, community development, youth engagement, environmental resource research and preservation, cultural preservation, and artistic innovation. Special thanks to the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the six New England state arts agencies, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and other Native Arts program funders.

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