Oscar Howe Exhibition explores Native American contemporary artwork
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Oscar Howe Exhibition explores Native American contemporary artwork

The Oscar Howe Curatorial Fellowship Exhibition was on Jan. 26 and showcases Howe’s artwork and his dedication to his legacy. Howe was a Yanktonai Dakota artist from South Dakota who was known for his contemporary depictions of Native Americans.  

The Fellowship is a grant funded program that is a part of their contemporary Native Arts program. This allows students to create exhibitions like this and do travel research.  

In an email interview with The Volante, junior social work major Jesslyn Estes, said they centered the exhibition around nature to highlight the relationship between Indigenous people and nature.  

“Oscar Howe’s art expresses this better than anything else. Nature plays a crucial role in the culture, and he painted to record visually and artistically the identity of an Indigenous person,” Estes said.  

Gallery director Amy Fill said the exhibition is open to everyone, but those who have a deeper understanding of Native culture will have a more enriched experience in the gallery. 

“They will have more access to the understandings in a deeper way than like I can understand because that’s not my culture, but they can have more insight into the symbolisms and the dances and the histories,” Fill said. 

With decades of artwork at her disposal, Estes said it was hard to decide what pieces to use in the gallery. After picking a theme, it was easy to put them together. Estes said one of the pieces has a tree behind the dancer which relates to nature but also holds cultural significance. 

“I noticed things in his paintings that symbolize the culture and the identity of an Indigenous person. His work expresses the relationship they have with the land and environment. The way he paints their movements in nature and captures the dancers in the air with the flow of the wind,” Estes said. 

Estes said there is no target audience for this exhibition. She hopes everyone has a chance to visit the gallery because there is always something new to learn.  

“The Oscar Howe Gallery is important because it encourages questions, sparks curiosity and holds significant cultural value. I think everyone would enjoy this exhibition because just walking through it is fascinating,” Estes said. 

There will be an honoring ceremony for the gallery at the end of the school year.