Twisted Path: Contemporary Native American Artists Walking in Two Worlds

Topic: Art Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Raney Bench

Published on January 13, 2009, Modified on January 22, 2009

  • Description and goals

    10 contemporary Native American artists selection of works that express what it means to be a Native person today, and how art can be used as a form of expression. The goals are to break down stereotypes of what is “Native American” art, and bring a national dialogue to Maine about what it means to be a Native person today.

  • Development process and challenges

    Each invited artist was asked to provide a statement about how s/he uses art as a form of expression, and select between one and 10 pieces of their work that represents the statement. The invited artists are a combination of nationally recognized and regionally important artists. The curators sought to include a variety of mediums, from traditional to contemporary. Artists were identified that address diverse topics in their works, from identity and stereotyping to conservation and enduring traditions, and a balance of voice was created- some artists express anger or irony, while others use humor or reverence.
    Challenges included obtaining object lists and measurements from each artist for design, and negotiations for shipping from diverse locations on a limited budget. Two artists were not able to fulfill their obligations, and last minute design changes needed to be made.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    I learned that an “escape” clause should always be included in a contract, and that objects should be in hand before honorariums are paid.
    We decided to treat all the artists equally, instead of highlighting the acclaim and recognition of the national artists over that of the regional artists. Because the show is about how each artist uses art to communicate, they all have equal status in the show. This has met with great success, and people find the exhibit approachable and friendly.
    We also included a picture of each artist with the statement. It was challenging in some cases to get an image from the artists, but we have found that visitors respond to this addition.
    We did not start raising money for this show early enough in the planning phase, and had to do a “light” version of what we wanted as a result. Lesson learned- start soliciting for money as soon as possible!

  • Exhibition Opened: December 2008

  • Exhibition Still Open!

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Bar Harbor, ME, United States

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $100,000 (US)

  • Size: 1000 to 3,000 sq ft.

  • Website(s):

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