Western Pennsylvania Museum Celebrates Native American Art and Culture

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art debuts a spring photography exhibit and series of events that look at the effects of colonialism while highlighting Native American art and culture.
GREENSBURG, Penn. – This spring, visitors to The Westmoreland Museum of American Art will experience visual art as well as performances, discussions, and culinary adventures, that explore Native American culture and the effects of colonialism. The program is anchored by an exhibition: Mingled Visions: The Photographs of Edward S. Curtis and Will Wilson, on display March 30 through June 30, 2019. In tandem, a second exhibition, The Outsider’s Gaze, explores the role of 19th- and early 20th-century European American artists in creating and reinforcing stereotypes of Native Americans.
The Westmoreland, located in Greensburg, is Western Pennsylvania’s only museum dedicated to American art. Striving to create more opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience art in a variety of forms, the Museum has expanded programming by more than 80%, extended its hours, and made admission free, eliminating a previous suggested-donation policy.
Mingled Visions offers an intriguing comparison of two photographers documenting Native American life. Edward S. Curtis spent three decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries photographing and documenting Native American life, culminating in more than 40,000 photographic images of more than 80 tribes throughout the American West.
Working in a similar historical photographic process, Diné photographer Will Wilson resumes the documentary mission of Curtis from the standpoint of a 21st-century indigenous artist. Wilson convenes with and invites indigenous artists, arts professionals and tribal governance to engage in the performative ritual that is the studio portrait, directly challenging the assumption that Native people are frozen in time.
Visitors of The Westmoreland will have the chance to participate in this ritual themselves at a free event on Sat., May 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., when Wilson sets up a working portrait studio in the Museum. Using a large-format camera and historic wet plate collodion process, Wilson will photograph portraits of a limited number of participants, inviting them into his series of contemporary tintypes. Those who sit for the photographs will be gifted their tintype portrait, developed on the spot, and a high-resolution scan of their image will become part of Wilson’s ongoing portraiture project.
Concurrently with the exhibition and related events, The Westmoreland will release a land statement to acknowledge the Adena, Hopewell, Monongahela, Delaware, Shawnee and Seneca-Cayuga communities on whose land the Museum stands. This statement will appear within the exhibition and will be shared verbally by staff before events. Eventually, a permanent plaque will be installed.
“As a museum of American art, we have a responsibility to reflect the diversity of this country and its artists,” says Anne Kraybill, the Richard M. Scaife Director and CEO of The Westmoreland. “It’s important not only to acknowledge the tribes that preceded us on this land and honor their traditions but also to celebrate contemporary Native American creators.”
Other programming associated with the exhibition:
  • Fri., April 12, 7:30 p.m.: The April edition of the Westmoreland’s monthly Art on Tap 2.0 event will feature an option to purchase an upgraded ticket to experience a performance by the 1491s, a Native American sketch comedy group that depicts contemporary Native American life using humor and satire to explore issues such as stereotypes and racism (internal and external), tribal politics, and the conflict between tradition and modernity. From 5 to 9 p.m., all Art on Tap ticket holders can enjoy a reception with light bites from Elegant Catering and an art scavenger hunt. (Art on Tap only admission: $10 for members, $15 for nonmembers; Art on Tap plus 1491s performance : $20 for members, $30 for non-members)
  • Sun., April 28, 2 – 3 p.m.: Dr. Shannon Egan, Director of the Schmucker Art Gallery of Gettysburg College, presents “‘A True Indian’: The Art, Artifice, and Politics of Edward S. Curtis’s North American Indian.” Egan considers three divergent moments over the three decades of Curtis’s career to provide a broader understanding of how carefully manipulated depictions of Native Americans nonetheless pictured a “real” cultural truth. (Free)
  • Sun., May 5, noon – 5 p.m.: The Council of the Three Rivers Native American Center joins The Westmoreland for a celebration of Native American culture in the community, featuring dance performances, music, storytelling, art activities and food. (Free)
  • Sat., June 1, 6 – 9 p.m.: “Reclaiming Native American Food,” a dinner and discussion with Chef Sean Sherman: Chef Sherman, Oglala Lakota and Founder of The Sioux Chef, his catering and food education business in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, will discuss Native American farming techniques, wild food usage and harvesting, cooking techniques and native cultural history. Enjoy a dinner and discussion presented in partnership with Adelphoi Village, Repair the World and 412 Food Rescue focusing on Native American cuisine sourced and foraged from indigenous and local farmers and land. (Reception: 6 – 7 p.m., dinner: 7 – 9 p.m. Dinner is $50 for museum members and $60 for non-members.)
For more information or to register/purchase tickets, visit https://thewestmoreland.org/events/.
These events are part of The Westmoreland’s efforts to create more opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience art.
Also enhancing the visitor experience, Café Marchand will open this spring with culinary partner French Express. The café will serve sandwiches, salads, soup, baguettes and cheese plates along with a selection of wines and Pennsylvania craft beers.
The Westmoreland’s new hours (Beginning March 30):
  • Wed. – Fri.: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Sat. – Sun.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Mon. – Tues.: closed (except for scheduled school groups and partner programs)
The North American Indian Photogravures by Edward S. Curtis is a traveling exhibition organized by the Dubuque Museum of Art, Iowa.
 
Will Wilson’s photographs are courtesy of the artist.
 
The Outsider’s Gaze is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the Art Bridges + Terra Foundation initiative.
 
Support for both exhibitions has been provided by the Hillman Exhibition Fund of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art. 
 
This project was completed in partnership with the Rivers of Steel Heritage Area. Funding was provided in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Environmental Stewardship Fund, administered by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp.
 
The Westmoreland receives funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the Marketing to Attract Tourism Grant through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development; and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, among other funding from government, foundations, corporations and individuals.
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About The Westmoreland Museum of American Art: 
Western Pennsylvania’s only museum dedicated to American art, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, is a place to share meaningful cultural experiences that open the door to new ideas, perspectives and possibilities. The Westmoreland’s extraordinary permanent collection, with its strong focus on the art and artists of southwestern Pennsylvania, is complemented by an impressive schedule of temporary exhibitions— both nationally traveling exhibitions and those organized by the Museum—as well as community-oriented programming and special events. More information is available at thewestmoreland.org and on the Museum’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

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