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Famed Red Cloud Indian School Art Gallery on exhibit at Salish Kootenai College

By Lailani Upham

(L to R) Karl Leonard, Maori Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence and SKC Instructor; Corwin “Corky” Clairmont, SKC former Art Director; John Rawlings Flathead Valley Community College Director; and Karen Goulet, SKC Art Department faculty stand beside the Red Cloud Indian Art Show display in the Woodcock Building on SKC Campus. (Courtesy photo) (L to R) Karl Leonard, Maori Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence and SKC Instructor; Corwin “Corky” Clairmont, SKC former Art Director; John Rawlings Flathead Valley Community College Director; and Karen Goulet, SKC Art Department faculty stand beside the Red Cloud Indian Art Show display in the Woodcock Building on SKC Campus. (Courtesy photo)

PABLO — For the first time the Red Cloud Indian School Art Gallery is being showcased outside of it’s South Dakota home base.

The unique collection is the largest and longest running art show of its kind on a reservation solely for Native people in the U.S., according the The Heritage Center.

There are nearly 10,000 items displayed. Fulbright Scholar and Maori artist Karl Leonard, and Flathead Valley Community College Art Director John Rawlings selected 35 distinctive pieces out a of collection of 3,000 to showcase at Salish Kootenai College.

The exhibit opened on January 10 and will be displayed at the Woodcock Building on SKC campus until Thursday, February 7.

Former SKC Art Director Corwin Clairmont and Rawlings coordinated plans for the collection to be housed at SKC and FVCC.

The idea to host the exhibit is to build relationships between the colleges, said Leonard.

Rawlings spent three years in the 1970’s as a volunteer art teacher Red Could Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

In the summer of 1978 Rawlings was asked to be a juror of the Red Cloud Indian Art exhibit.. “This project was still in its infancy, but basically was started to bring focus to the art works of the northern plains Indians at a time when all eyes seemed to be turned to the southwest and Taos.”

Over the years the collection has grown exponentially, says Rawlings.

Rawlings gives credit to Brother Simon, Mary Bordeaux, curator, and Peter Strong Director of the Red Cloud School.

The task of selecting the 30-something collection was not easy Rawlings said. “We were immediately intimidated by the task selecting from shelves that contained thousands.”

One of many art paintings hung along the walls at the SKC Art Department building called “Lakota Fauvism” by Ivan Long, Lakota. (Lailani Upham photo) One of many art paintings hung along the walls at the SKC Art Department building called “Lakota Fauvism” by Ivan Long, Lakota. (Lailani Upham photo)

“We spent time going through the data bank of images and then began the selection task with a rather loose criteria that slowly changed as we began to wend our way through this remarkable col- lection. Our first task was to search out pieces created by Native Americans from our immediate area, our second to mount a show that represented a broad spectrum of technique and media, our third to bring back arresting images that would excite our students and gallery visitors,” Rawlings explained.

Leonard, a Maori, from New Zealand, explained the struggle his people (Maori) faced to survive parallels to some extent with the Native people of the plains.

“The artworks capture a view of the world through the eyes and minds of their creators and evoke strong messages relating to past, present and future. I would dare to say that these pieces go further and invoke a greater power beyond what the artists originally intended and hence the reason they have been selected. Each artwork speaks of a unique experience.”

The Red Cloud Indian Art Show was launched in 1969. Last year the school celebrated their 44th annual art show.

The Heritage Center sells Lakota artwork through their gift shop and online store to support the culture and artists in the community, says Strong.

“This exhibition, selected by Rawlings and Leonard, features some excellent examples of the two-dimensional works from our collection. They provide a survey of talent from Native artists over the last few decades, and we hope they celebrate the creativity and ingenuity that exist within Native communities.”

Strong adds, “The artworks capture a view of the world through the eyes and minds of their creators and evoke strong messages relating to past, present and future. I would dare to say that these pieces go further and invoke a greater power beyond what the artists originally intended and hence the reason they have been selected. Each artwork speaks of a unique experience.”

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