By Serena Maxwell
South Puget Sound Community College’s Native American Heritage Committee is hosting the fourth annual Native American Art Exhibit on campus. The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. on each Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday until April 26 in the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts.
The purpose of the art show is to highlight Native American culture at SPSCC, to showcase up-coming artists, and to recognize the Squaxin Island Tribe, said Amanda Frank, member of the Native American Heritage Committee and student senator for diversity and equity affairs.
SPSCC is built on traditional Squaxin Island Tribe land. In 2002 the student senate wanted to recognize the Squaxin tribe by having a welcome pole carved and therefore obtained approval from the tribe elders. In June 2005 SPSCC held the pole raising ceremony.
The Native American Heritage Committee also includes David Rector, the dean of student life, Dale Croes, an anthropology professor, Geomarc Panelo, diversity coordinator for the campus activities board, and representatives from the Squaxin and Nisqually tribe.
Since the Native American Heritage Committee held the first official art exhibit in 2009, it has showcased art made by various Native American artists from several different tribes.
Some examples of art you might see at the exhibit are watercolor paintings, wood-carvings such as canoe paddles, and button-hole blankets.
“Part of our purpose [is] to showcase the Native American culture and heritage in the area,” said Rector. By bringing the Native American Art Exhibit onto campus a window to the tribe’s culture is brought to students.
By visiting the art exhibit students are made more aware of Native American culture and of the origin of land their school is built on.
Visitors from the Squaxin or Nisqually tribe come and show SPSCC students traditional Native American art forms. Some of these in the past have been storytellers and basket weavers. These events are open to the whole campus to come and learn.
Another event that the committee coordinated this year was A Day at College. Native American high school students were invited to come to campus to make art and write poetry. A career workshop was also held for them.
“It was trying to get them comfortable with the idea of community college,” said Rector. The exhibit serves as an opportunity to showcase these students’ artwork and to encourage local artists.