The Washington State Historical Society opens its 15th annual IN THE SPIRIT Contemporary Native Arts exhibition to an online audience today.
For this iteration of the exhibition, 24 works from 20 artists are on display, ranging from textiles, paintings, basketry, photography, sculptures, and carvings. As stated in a press release from the historical society, “The past often weaves with the present and cultural traditions blend with contemporary practices.” Such is the case for the glass totems created by artist Dan Friday, from the Lummi people.
“The stories and lines in my Totems are subtle. I often look to personal experience and expression for the themes. I am grateful for my grandfather and his modern approach, it empowers me as I find my way. Our work is different, but a common message is that ‘we are still here’,” Friday stated in the press release. His grandfather, Joseph Hillaire, shared the way of the Lummi and Coast Salish people through his contemporary Totems, Friday said.
Submissions were selected to be part of the exhibit by a team of jurors who worked remotely, including lead juror, Todd Clark of the Wailaki Tribe. Clark is the founder and curator of IMNDN, a nonprofit organization advocating for contemporary Native art and artists, and the program manager at the University of Washington’s Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies.
“During these troubled times it would be easy to dismiss art as non-essential, and to an extent this is understandable” Clark stated in a press release from the historical society. “But then again if life imitates art, perhaps art can help lift us and point us to a better future? For me the arts do just that and exhibitions such as IN THE SPIRIT play a major role in grounding me, connecting me with my Native heritage and instilling hope.”
While the exhibition will begin online, the Washington State History Museum hopes to include the pieces in an in-person gallery when museums reopen. Learn more about the museum and exhibit here.