| Beginning Saturday, August 1, visitors
to the Museum Center at Five Points in Cleveland, TN, can see a stunning
exhibit of works created by 93 Cherokee artists. Different parts of
the Cherokee culture are represented in "Generations: Cherokee
Language Through Art." Ages of participants range from 3 to 91
years old, and the 85 pieces in the show display a wide range of media,
styles and approaches.
The artworks were created by artists from
the Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma), United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee
Indians (Oklahoma) and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North
Carolina). Participants are practicing artists from all three Cherokee
tribes, Cherokee Nation Immersion School language students and Cherokee
Mickel Yantz, curator of the Cherokee
Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Okla., juried and assembled the exhibit.
The call for entries requested those submitting to illustrate the
rich history of the Cherokee language in order that it survive in
the future. The artists used a different character from the Cherokee
syllabary as inspiration.
The Cherokee language is unique because
it was the first American Indian language to be written down. The
man who accomplished this remarkable achievement was Sequoyah, a
Cherokee born in Tennessee. Although Sequoyah was illiterate, he
invented a written symbol for each word in Cherokee. His initial
attempt in 1809 was too complicated to use in real life. By 1821,
he had devised an 87-character (later reduced to 85) alphabet or
syllabary. The syllabary allowed the Cherokees to become literate
Today, there are about 150 American Indian
languages in North America, according to Yantz.
"We wanted to bring the Cherokee
language alive in a way never seen before," Yantz said. "The
exhibit hits as many senses as possible with visual, textual and
Traditional materials used by Cherokee
artists (river cane, gourds, wood, quilting, clay, basketry) contrast
with contemporary items in the creation of the works in the show.
For example, K.A. Gilliland, Andrew Sikora and their two children,
Skyla and Sean, collaborated on a sculpture that incorporates a
small television that is operated by remote control.
addition to the artworks on display, there will be a section of
the exhibit where a DVD will help visitors learn the correct phonetic
pronunciation of each character in the Cherokee syllabary.
Yantz, although not of American Indian
descent, has had a fascination for American Indian artwork since
he was a child. Originally from Seattle, he was surrounded by Northwest
Coast art and focused his studies toward understanding it and the
artists. Seven years ago, while working for the Smithsonian Institution,
he was offered his current position at the Cherokee Heritage Center.
He says he is honored to have the opportunity to work with Cherokee
artists and further his knowledge of American Indian art.
"I feel 'Generations' was the most
rewarding experience I have had the pleasure to be part of, and
I hope this exhibit will continue to be shown in the future -- each
time creating passion for the Cherokee culture, language and art."
Lisa Simpson Lutts, director of the Museum
Center at Five Points, said she is thrilled to host this second
exhibit from the Cherokee Heritage Center. In conjunction with "Generations,"
she and her staff have organized a number of adult and children's
programs related to Cherokee art, history and culture.
The exhibition will continue through Oct.