In the Spirit

What is happening in the Indigenous art world in our region? Find out at the 13th annual IN THE SPIRIT Contemporary Native Arts Exhibition, where you can see 29 works from 21 Native artists. The exhibition opens Saturday, June 30 at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma and will be on view through Sunday, August 12. There will be three opportunities for visitors to meet some of the artists as well: the awards ceremony on July 1, 3:00 PM; gallery talks on Third Thursday evening July 19, 5:30 PM; and the Northwest Native Festival on August 11, 12:00-7:00 PM.

IN THE SPIRIT connects the Washington State Historical Society’s (WSHS) Native collections with the vibrant contemporary arts scene. Visitors will see mixed media, paintings, beadwork, textiles, sculpture, carving, and basketry. Many of the artists live in Washington but others hail from Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Minnesota, and even as far as Vermont and Virginia. Art collectors will be interested to know that most of the works in the show are available for purchase.

Artist RYAN! Feddersen spoke about the connection that IN THE SPIRIT provides. “As a mixed-heritage native artist living in an urban area, contemporary Indigenous arts is one of the ways I connect to my culture. In the Spirit provides an annual opportunity to bring together native artists to share work and create cultural dialogue. Receiving the Honoring Innovation award for my work in the 2017 exhibition made me feel recognized and supported. I look forward to engaging with this exhibition as it continues to grow and acknowledge the thriving contemporary Indigenous arts field.”

Each spring, Native artists from many states and Canada submit work for consideration by a jury of local artists and curators. The 2018 jury included artist Alex McCarty, Makah, a graduate of Evergreen State College; curator and artist Asia Tail, Cherokee, a graduate of Cooper Union School of Art in New York; and Lynette Miller, head of collections at WSHS.

“The jurying is blind, meaning we don’t know the artists’ names until we have selected the pieces to be exhibited,” said Miller. “I enjoy being surprised when an artist creates something that’s completely different from the work they submitted in earlier years. I love seeing the creative spirit at work!”

The Washington State Historical Society typically adds one work from each annual exhibition to its collection, and the selection is announced at the artist awards ceremony (in 2017, RYAN! Feddersen’s mixed media sculpture Micro Spill was chosen). The 2018 artist awards will include Best in Show, Honoring Innovation, Honoring the Northwest, and Honoring Tradition, along with the purchase prize. During the run of the exhibition, visitors can cast votes for the People’s Choice first and second place awards. Ballots are available in the gallery, and People’s Choice winners are revealed at the culminating festival.

The free IN THE SPIRIT Northwest Native Festival is an indoor/outdoor celebration on Saturday, August 11, from 12:00 to 7:00 PM, co-hosted by the History Museum and Tacoma Art Museum. Celebrate the diverse cultures of the Northwest with a Native arts market, dance, song, music, food, and a designer runway fashion show. The day will end with a performance by special guests Khu.éex’ (pronounced koo-eex), a band co-founded by artist and musician Preston Singletary. Khu.éex’ translates to “Potlatch” in the Tlingit language.  The History Museum and Tacoma Art Museum are excited to bring this immersive festival experience to the community.

For more information, see www.inthespiritarts.org.