The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center is celebrating its anniversary with an in-person gallery showing, its first since the COVID-19 pandemic closures. The Longhouse is calling its “Across the Waters” gallery celebration a 25 +1 because 2020 marked a quarter century since its beginning. The exhibit honors the native art created by The Evergreen State College teachers, students and resident artists from across the globe who have participated in the center’s public service program.
Each year, the Longhouse holds a gallery show to honor the artists in residence, students, instructors and workshop participants and their work. The gallery offers a full array of mediums, such as glass and bronze, fabrics, recycled materials and more. Pieces include cast glass and bronze sculpture, wood carving, prints and conventional clothing for example. Contemporary artist Terresa White’s bronze sculpture, “Antidote,” adorns a pedestal as the feature piece, greeting visitors as they enter the door. “Antidote” is a bronze sculpture of a polar bear and a woman who stand as one, sharing a body with each showing a full side, yet sharing a single emotion in the gaze. White, who is Yupik and a Longhouse program participant, is inspired by tribal stories of transformation and the interrelation of human, animal and natural element spirits.
The “Antidote” piece sets the theme for the gallery show in that the works on display all can offer a degree of melding. Since the Longhouse residency program invites artists from around the region and Maori artists from New Zealand, combinations, confluences and overlaps are prevalent. One area of the gallery features a number of glass pieces, made by women glass blowers who have joined a field of art previously more common for men. The blown glass selections are vessels such as baskets, vases and bowls. Upon closer look, traditional, Indigenous details merge with more modern practices such as fine lines in a cast glass bowl resembling strands in a woven basket. Some parts of the gallery also display evidence of knowledge crossing over from one artist to another as student and teacher pieces sit side by side. A traditional, customary art, handcrafted garment by Skokomish Bruce Subiyay Miller is displayed next to a piece completed by his student. Visiting artist, and professor of Maori visual arts, Robert Jahnke’s carving in charred cedar is representative of converging Pacific Northwest and Maori elements.
“I hope visitors to the exhibit will enjoy the wide variety of ideas artists bring to this show,” says
Longhouse managing director Laura Ver Meulen. “Native artists are working in every kind of artistic medium and some of the work might surprise visitors.” Additional works in the show include recycled material, a more modern artform that in this instance is interwoven with Indigenous characteristics. Metal sculpture, drawings, paintings, intricate basket weaving and masks are just some of the wonderful pieces displayed in the gallery, all of which reflect the broad range of artists visiting and working at Evergreen.
The Longhouse center supports new artists, encourages those who are established and invites many for collaborative experiences. The House of Welcome, as the center is named, was the vision of Evergreen’s Native American Studies program founder Mary Ellen Hillaire, of the Lummi Nation, in 1972. She wanted a cultural structure in which people could teach and learn interchangeably. The building was the first of its kind on an American public college campus when it opened in 1995. The Longhouse mission is to promote the art of Indigenous cultures by educating people through creative expression and through economic development. It has done that over 25 years through residency programs, first starting with local tribes, then branching out to the region and eventually internationally to Native tribes of the Pacific Rim. Artists of different cultural backgrounds arrived to share, grow and refine their talents.
Support comes in many forms, such as supplying artists with more advanced to tools, studio time or classes to grow their skills. It means re-grant funding to other, budding Native arts programs. ?“The Longhouse is looking forward to offering more in-person art workshops and events that celebrate Indigenous arts and cultures,” says Ver Meulen. “We will continue to offer ways for people to participate in the virtual world made necessary because of the pandemic. We will be offering art-making opportunities for youth and taking workshops and residences out to tribal communities in a four-state region that includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana and working with other colleges and universities across the nation that will be supporting cultural arts in tribal communities in their regions. Of course, we plan to have a great art show in the Evergreen Gallery every fall.”
“Across the Waters” is located in the Evergreen Gallery at the Daniel J. Evans Hall on the Evergreen State College campus. The show runs from November 13, 2021 through January 29, 2022. Specific hours for each day that the gallery is open, are posted on the Longhouse web page.