Contemporary Native American art to be focus of Nov. 10 symposium, performance

Joseph Erb’s painting “Petition” recalls the role of creation figures as observers in the transcription of Cherokee history.

Seven artists representing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will visit the Western Carolina University campus Friday, Nov. 10, to serve as panelists as WCU’s Fine Art Museum hosts a one-day symposium on contemporary Native American art.

The free symposium also will bring to campus scholars of Native art and Native American artists who are featured in “Return from Exile: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art,” an exhibit currently on display at the museum. After the symposium, the day’s activities will continue with a late-afternoon reception celebrating the exhibit and featuring artist demonstrations and Cherokee food tasting. That will be followed by an evening performance showcasing A Tribe Called Red, an electronic music ensemble from Canada, and students from New Kituwah Academy, the Eastern Band’s Cherokee language immersion school.

All activities will take place in WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Following registration and opening remarks, the symposium’s first session at 10 a.m. will address the topic “Perpetuating Traditions: Indigenous Visual Arts as a Vehicle of Knowledge” with a group of panelists including four Eastern Band artists – T.J. Holland, tribal cultural resources officer; Mary Thompson, a second-generation basket weaver; Faren Sanders, a painter and illustrator; and Bear Allison, a photographer and new media artist.

A second session beginning at 11:20 a.m. will be a “Collector’s Forum” and will feature Barbara Duncan, education director for the Museum of the Cherokee Indians, and Anna Fariello, formerly research associate professor at WCU’s Hunter Library, among the panelists.

Following a lunch buffet, the third session at 1:30 p.m. will address “The Business of Native Art: Dialogues of Collaboration and Prosperity” with two panelists from the Eastern Band – Hope Huskey, associate director of the Sequoyah Fund, and Jeff Marley, an artist and chair of the Heritage Arts Department for the Nantahala School for the Arts at Southwestern Community College.

The fourth and final symposium session, beginning at 2:50 p.m., will focus on “Contemporary Southeastern Native Art” with a group of panelists that will include two Eastern Band artists – Joel Queen, a ninth-generation potter, and Josh Adams, a wood-carver, sculptor and painter.

“The symposium brings together a veritable who’s who of Southeastern indigenous artists, curators, collectors and scholars,” said Marley, who has been serving as chair of the symposium organizing committee. “Anyone interested in native art shouldn’t miss this rare opportunity to engage with so much knowledge and talent.”

The reception, set for 5 to 7 p.m., will celebrate “Return from Exile,” a traveling exhibition made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition features more than 30 contemporary Southeastern Native American artists working in a variety of media such as painting, drawing, printmaking, basketry, sculpture and pottery. The reception will include a gallery talk at 5:15 p.m. with exhibition curators, artist demonstrations and traditional Cherokee food provided by the Cherokee chapter of the North American Indian Women’s Association.

At 7:30 p.m., a ticketed performance by A Tribe Called Red will take place in the Bardo Arts Center performance hall. With influences ranging from modern hip-hop to tribal music, the ensemble reflects the experiences of urban and contemporary indigenous cultures and experience, with all its layers and complexity. Students from New Kituwah Academy will open the show with a selection of songs.

Both the symposium and reception on Nov. 10 are free, with the symposium including a free continental breakfast and lunch, but registration is required for the symposium at Tickets for the performance by A Tribe Called Red, part of the Bardo Arts Center’s “WCU Presents” series, are $25 for adults, $20 for WCU faculty and staff, and seniors; and $5 for students. Students must purchase tickets at the Bardo Arts Center box office or by calling 828-227-ARTS to get the discounted rate. Adults tickets for WCU faculty and staff are available at

The Fine Art Museum’s activities on Nov. 10 coincide with WCU’s 2017-18 campus learning theme, “Cherokee: Community. Culture. Connections.” During the year, faculty, students and the community are exploring topics related to the Cherokee for shared learning experiences and campus conversations.

Nov. 10 also marks the closing of the Fine Art Museum exhibit “Ancient Forms, Modern Minds: Contemporary Cherokee Ceramics,” which features the work of 11 Cherokee artists including Davey Arch, Joel Queen, Melissa Maney and Bernadine George, and brings together both historic and contemporary pottery techniques. The exhibit was organized by the Asheville Art Museum and made possible through support by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

For more information, call 828-227-ARTS.