In The Spirit

A thousand years glow from carved cedar. Light falls shy of tooled depths, tracing tales of indigenous people. A glance away, the glow dances on reflections in crafted glass and steel – illuminating a story that is anything but over.

This uniquely modern blend of cultural tradition with current perspectives awaits collectors and visitors at the third annual In the Spirit: Contemporary Northwest Native Arts Exhibit at the Washington State History Museum this summer.

The juried month-long exhibit of works by noted Native American artists will be accompanied by seminars, demonstrations and an arts festival and market – offering a chance to experience traditional and modern aspects of Native American cultures.

“There’s music, storytelling, the artwork itself, a community of people that are here… it’s almost like a celebration,” said Puyallup tribal member Connie McCloud.

McCloud is captain and caretaker of the Puyallup Tribal Canoe Family, which will provide the opening ceremony for In the Spirit at the museum in Tacoma — on land their S’Puyalupubsh ancestors walked upon thousands of years ago. The Puyallup Indians are part of the Salish
people indigenous to the Pacific Northwest.

As their ancestors would have many centuries ago, tribal members will welcome visitors with a reception of drumming, songs and a blessing at the free public opening June 19. The juried arts exhibit will be on display in the museum until July 20.

The market and festival will feature works from a variety of artisans in the outdoor plaza and amphitheater on June 28 and 29. Festival visitors can sample traditional foods and enjoy performances by dancers, musicians and storytellers from local tribes and arts demonstrations by Northwest carvers, printmakers, weavers and bead artists.

The exhibit will showcase works by more than 30 contemporary Native American artists from across the United States, many of whom live and work in the Pacific Northwest. Through works ranging from glass and steel sculptures to more traditional weavings or carved wood, art in the exhibit will reflect experiences and expressions of today’s Native artists.

“There’s really something to be said about recognizing that it is an evolving culture,” said Abigail Azote, the museum’s public relations coordinator. “Members of this community continue to evolve in their lifestyle and their culture and, of course, their art,” she said. A resurgence of enthusiasm among Native people has generated new depths of expression in contemporary works, said Connie McCloud. “There’s an excitement. There are more people looking at their culture and looking at who they are and finding their own gifts to express themselves,” she said.

The festival will include a screening of “Shadow of the Salmon,” a docudrama about a young Lakota Nation man who visits the Pacific Northwest and learns about the relationships between salmon, the environment and local tribes.

Understanding Northwest Native Art, a collector’s seminar on Northwest art forms, will include presentations from a number of Northwest Native artists and a collector of historic Native art on June 28. Appraisals of historic tribal art will be available after the seminar.

Washington State History Museum is at 1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma. More information is available at 1-888-BE-THERE, www.washingtonhistory.org or www.evergreen.edu/longhouse.

Krista Olson