http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgA map of the Cherokee Nation’s property around the old Chilocco Indian Boarding School in Kay County in central Oklahoma. CNB WIND PROJECT PRESENTATION
A map of the Cherokee Nation’s property around the old Chilocco Indian Boarding School in Kay County in central Oklahoma. CNB WIND PROJECT PRESENTATION

Tribe pushes forward with wind farm

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
05/24/2013 08:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During the past 10 years, the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses have considered entering the wind energy business. On May 13, Tribal Councilors authorized the tribe to move forward on a wind farm project in Kay County.

The authorization allows tribal officials to enter into leases with PNE Wind USA for the placement of 90 turbines on 6,000 acres, 3,000 of which is CN-owned, near the former Chilocco Indian Agricultural School. The tribe is expected to earn approximately $16 million in 20 years.

History of Chilocco Wind Farm

According to tribal documents, the wind farm was conceived as a Cherokee project, but CNB did not pursue it alone. After discussions with possible developers, CNB selected PNE Wind USA, a North American subsidiary of PNE Wind in Germany.

“PNE was the only developer not to require CNB to pay up-front for the evaluation and development of the project,” tribal documents state. “A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between PNE and CNB to develop the Chilocco Wind Project in September 2010.”

From 2003-09, CNB received from the Energy and Interior departments approximately $581,000 for predevelopment of a wind farm. In 2010, CNB received a grant from the Energy Department totaling $990,550. According to documents, CNB has received $1.57 million in federal grants for the project.
In addition to the grants, CNB has spent $588,000 on the project, while PNE has spent $1.26 million.

Documents show that on Jan. 11 CNB contacted Cimarron Power Ventures to review project agreements and provide recommendations. CPV is a consulting subsidiary of Walters Power International LLC in Oklahoma City. Former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters owns WPI.

According to tribal documents, the review resulted in an increase in CN’s returns beyond those anticipated when the Tribal Council voted to approve the project and two types of leases on Dec. 10. CNB and CN officials reviewed the findings and CPV followed up with the council’s Resource Committee on March 11.

CNB hired former Principal Chief Ross Swimmer as a government relations officer in 2009. During that time he helped develop business opportunities, one being the wind project.

“I worked on probably $30 to $50 million worth of business development that came into the businesses,” Swimmer said. “As I was doing that though, I was made aware of this particular project by a lady named Carol Wyatt. Carol had actually worked a little bit with the Kaw Nation that owns a tract of land at Chilocco back in about 2000 or 2001. And the Kaw had decided that they would like to do a wind farm on their portion of the Chilocco land. At that time there really wasn’t any federal money to do renewable energy. Carol had brought that idea with her to Cherokee Nation Businesses when she was hired as a technician there and said you know ‘maybe this is something the Cherokee Nation would like to pursue or Cherokee Nation Businesses.”

Swimmer said he’s glad to hear the tribe is continuing with the wind farm but voiced concern that the project has moved from CNB to CN.

“The one major advantage that we have always had, and I started it in the 1970s, is to insure that there is a bright line between business and politics,” he said. “And when that bright line gets blurred and we see business kind of going directly to the Cherokee Nation and visa versa then that can cause problems. I would rather see the project developed strictly as a business opportunity with CNB and managed over the years and frankly that CNB would own it.”

According to tribal documents, CN requested that it rather CNB be the contracting party so that all proceeds go directly to CN upon achieving commercial operations and the sale of the investors. CN therefore retains 100 percent of the proceeds and not a 35 percent cash dividend, documents state.
“This transition will also simplify the contracting since CN has the leases and CNB had the development agreements,” documents state.

With the current project setup, the tribe expects to make a $16 million in 20 years for its General Fund, records show.

Project Ownership

According to tribal documents, PNE Wind USA owns Chilocco Wind Farm LLC, which is the special purpose vehicle used as the project’s development entity.

Phase 1 of the project calls for CWF holding the ground and wind resource leases from CN. Phase 2 involves PNE holding similar leases issued by the Ponca, Pawnee, Kaw and Otoe-Missouri tribes that cover their portions of the Chilocco lands.

PNE will sell the project to investors after its completion and it has achieved commercial operations. Documents state that PNE guarantees the project’s construction and performance and may stay on as operator but not as an owner. Owners of CWF will include General Electric Finance Corp., as the tax equity investor. So far an equity investor has not been signed onto the project. A final participant includes the banks and investors that are loaning the debt portion of the project’s financing.

Debt financing extends over a 31-year period. Except for debt service requirements, GE and the pension fund will take 99 percent of the available tax earnings and cash flow in the early years, with the equity owner entitled to 1 percent of the cash flow. Once their investment is repaid, plus their margin, GE and the owner will flip positions, with GE earning 1 percent of the cash flows and the equity owner earning 99 percent. Debt service requirements will be paid out of total cash flows before payout to GE or the equity owner. The equity owner will own 99 percent of the project once GE and the pension fund achieve payout, with GE owning 1 percent.

Later, there may be an opportunity for CN to take on ownership of the project. According to tribal documents, “CPV is currently reviewing the option of CN borrowing the equity required to own the project, recourse only to the project, and have the equity loan retired from the tax savings that result from CN’s ownership.”

“This is still in the exploration stage. As an overview, PNE has offered CN the opportunity to own 99 percent of CWP, which includes both Phases 1 and 2,” documents state. “If CWP’s project finance structure is as outlined above, CN would own 99 percent of CWP but initially only have a claim to 1 percent of the cash flows.”

If that occurs, after 10 years, when GE and the equity loan are fully repaid, plus margin, CN would be entitled to 99 percent of the cash flows and see significant earnings materialize. The financial forecasts suggests that this type of ownership would generate approximately $200 million over 20 years with a net present value (discounted at 10 percent) of approximately $42 million, documents state.

Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the current deal, estimated at $16 million for the tribe, was better than previous deals considered by the Nation and probably the best deal it could get.

“I can tell you that one of the reasons the council took as long as it did to get to this point…is that there was a lot of discussion about improving the deal, and it has improved,” Hoskin said. “So I do think that we’ve got really the best deal we can get.”

The legislation that passed earlier on May 13 included a limited waiver of sovereignty that was necessary, Hoskin said, to allow Chilocco Wind Farm LLC to bring action if the tribe defaulted under its lease terms.

If a claim were brought against the tribe, it would allow Chilocco Wind Farm LLC to access the Chilocco lands to retrieve its possessions, Hoskin said.

Hoskin said this is a great venture for the tribe because it allows it to use an under-utilized resource.

“The land we have out in the Chilocco area, number one, it’s a good use of our resources which we should always improve upon. Number two, it makes us a leader in renewable energy,” he said. “This will be the largest wind power project of any tribe in the U.S., and it’s really fitting that Cherokee Nation be a leader on this. We are leaders in so many areas. Why shouldn’t we be a leader in renewable energy while at the same time generating millions of dollars for the people?”

Hoskin said there is not presently a plan in place to deliver the electric to the tribe or any of its entities. The power would be fed into the power grid for power companies to utilize and purchase.

jami-custer@cherokee.org


918-453-5560

News

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
02/23/2018 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan issued a final judgment in the case of Cherokee Nation v. Nash, Vann and the Department of Interior on Feb. 20, regarding Cherokee Freedmen citizenship. This judgment follows the CN’s motion for a final judgment. Hogan’s judgment states, “There is no reason for delay in entry of a final judgment in this action. The issue of the citizenship rights of Cherokee Freedmen has been litigated for many years and now that ruling has been made, all citizens of the Cherokee Nation are entitled to a final judgment not only for closure but also to facilitate implementation and enforcement of the court’s ruling.” He added that any claims remaining between the Freedmen and the federal defendants “can be litigated by them fully independent of the claims involving the Cherokee Nation and its officers.” On Aug. 30, Hogan denied the CN and Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s motion for “partial summary judgment” and granted the Freedmen “cross-motion for partial summary judgment” and the Interior’s motion for “summary judgment” in the case. The Aug. 30 ruling stated “the paramount question” in the case is whether Article 9 of the 1866 Treaty between the U.S. and the CN allowed qualifying Freedmen “all the rights of native Cherokees” and encompasses a right to CN citizenship. A secondary question was whether Article 9 gave CN citizenship to Freedmen listed on the Final Dawes Roll of Cherokee Freedmen. Answers to those questions would determine if the 2007 amendment to the CN Constitution that excluded most Freedmen descendants from CN citizenship violated 1866 Treaty and was unlawful. “The Cherokee Nation is mistaken to treat Freedmen’s right to citizenship as being tethered to the Cherokee Nation Constitution when, in fact, that right is tethered to the rights of native Cherokees. Furthermore, the Freedmen’s right to citizenship does not exist solely under the Cherokee Nation Constitution and therefore cannot be extinguished solely by amending that Constitution,” states Hogan’s ruling. “The Cherokee Nation’s sovereign right to determine its membership is no less now, as a result of this (Aug. 30) decision, than it was after the Nation executed the 1866 Treaty. The Cherokee Nation concedes that its power to determine tribal membership can be limited by treaty. In accordance with Article 9 of the 1866 Treaty, the Cherokee Freedmen have a present right to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation that is coextensive with the rights of Native Cherokees.” On Sept. 1, CN Attorney General Todd Hembree issued a statement saying he was “grateful to finally have a ruling on the core legal issues” that were presented to Hogan in 2014, and it was always his goal to present arguments before the court and get a final decision that was binding on all parties. “The Cherokee Nation respects the rule of law, and yesterday we began accepting and processing citizenship applications from Freedmen descendants. I do not intend to file an appeal,” Hembree wrote. “While the U.S. District Court ruled against the Cherokee Nation, I do not see it as a defeat. As the Attorney General, I see this as an opportunity to resolve the Freedmen citizenship issue and allow the Cherokee Nation to move beyond this dispute.”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
02/21/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen David Cornsilk on Feb. 19 petitioned the District Court to overturn Attorney General Todd Hembree’s opinion regarding four-year administrative term limits and block two current officials from another possible candidacy in 2019. The petition asks the court to declare Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden ineligible for candidacy in the next general election because they have served after winning “two consecutive” elections in 2011 and 2015. “I served on the Constitution Convention in 1999, and one of the main things that the Cherokee people had stated that they wanted at that time is term limits,” Cornsilk said. “I really believe in constitutional government and that the Constitution should be interpreted the way the common man understands it, not the way an attorney might twist the language to achieve an end.” Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said the office has reviewed the petition and stands behind Hembree’s opinion. “We obviously believe that the AG’s opinion that we issued is correct on the law and the facts, and we plan to defend it.” Article VII, Section 1 of the Constitution states the principal chief “shall hold office for a term of four years. No person having been elected to the office of Principal Chief in two (2) consecutive elections shall be eligible to file for the office of Principal Chief in the election next following his or her second term of office.” The 2016 opinion defined terms as “four years” and that “any candidate for elected office having served less than two consecutive, four-year terms of office is eligible to stand for re-election in the next general election.” The opinion states Baker and Crittenden could run again in 2019 if they chose because neither served a full four-year term after being elected in 2011 because of an appeal of the principal chief’s election. According to CN law, an attorney general’s opinion has the rule of law until overturned by a court or another attorney general’s opinion. Crittenden won the deputy chief’s race and was sworn in on Aug. 14, 2011, but had to assume principal chief duties until Baker won the election. Baker was sworn in on Oct. 19, 2011. Cornsilk’s petition argues that regardless of who is in the position of principal chief, the term Baker won was from Aug. 14, 2011, to Aug. 14, 2015, and “the fact that he didn’t step into the office until nine weeks after it began is not pertinent to the term.” The petition also states that regardless of Crittenden stepping in while the principal chief race was decided, “it is not pertinent to the term” as deputy chief. As such, it argues his first term was completed from Aug. 14, 2011 to Aug. 15, 2015. “I started investigating the opinion that (Hembree) had written and compared it to the Constitution, and it seemed to me that the chief and deputy chief, and of course I’m a supporter of both of them, but the circumstances that he was saying allowed them to run for a third term didn’t seem to match what I was reading in the Constitution,” Cornsilk said. Cornsilk said he filed the petition ahead of the 2019 general election to give the courts time to decide on the matter. “Our elections are so controversial anyway, that it’s better to get this over with early, get it out of the way that way we don’t even have to think about if they’re eligible to run and the court says they are, I’m fine with that. But if I’m right and the court says they are not eligible to run, I think it’s best for the people overall to know that as early as possible,” he said. To view the petition, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeecourts.org/cv18122cornsilkvhembree" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeecourts.org/cv18122cornsilkvhembree</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
02/21/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – This year marks the 190th anniversary of when the Cherokee Phoenix was first published on Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Georgia, a former Cherokee Nation capital. It was the first bilingual newspaper in North America, printed in Cherokee, using Sequoyah’s syllabary, and English. Since 1828, the Phoenix has only been printed a total of 25 years – from 1828 to 1834 in the old CN and from October 2000 to present day. The Cherokee Advocate newspaper followed the Phoenix and was printed from September 1844 until March 1906 and then from January 1977 until September 2000. “As a tribal citizen I’m thankful that the Cherokee Nation has always been a leader when it comes to documenting and telling its own story. There isn’t anything more important than having Native voices to represent our communities and people and to tell the stories about tribal issues, said CN citizen Jennifer Bell, editor of the Hownikan, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s newspaper. “As a Cherokee, I’m proud to have the Cherokee Phoenix as an example of how this has been done for 190 years.” Its creation in 1825 by the Cherokee National Council was part of an assimilation process by Cherokee leadership. Officials thought if they lived like their white neighbors – building schools, opening businesses and government offices and having a newspaper – that perhaps Georgians would accept them and let them stay on their lands. The newspaper’s first editor, Elias Boudinot, learned about the Phoenix bird of Egyptian mythology, which consumes itself in fire every 500 years and is reborn from the ashes, at school in Cornwall, Connecticut. Boudinot was part of a prominent Cherokee family, the brother of Stand Watie, nephew of Major Ridge and cousin of John Ridge. Boudinot, the Ridges, Principal Chief John Ross, Charles R. Hicks, and his son, Elijah Hicks, formed the CN’s ruling elite that believed acculturation into white society was critical to Cherokee survival. Boudinot, Stand Watie, John Ridge and Elijah Hicks, raised money to start the newspaper, and Boudinot went on a fundraising tour in Philadelphia and New York to find financing for it. He also used the tour to inform people of the Cherokee’s progress and acculturation. Along with gaining support from Americans, he raised enough money to purchase a printing press, which was set up in the tribe’s new capital in New Echota. Boudinot and Chief Ross used the Phoenix to write against the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the growing encroachment and harassment of Georgia settlers. It also contained news, features, accounts about Cherokees living in Arkansas and other area tribes, as well as social and religious activities. Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia), which affected Cherokee rights, were also written about extensively. As pressure for the Cherokee to leave Georgia increased, Boudinot changed his mind and began advocating for the Cherokee’s removal west. At first Chief Ross did not suppress Boudinot’s opposing view, but in early 1832 the two’s differences caused Boudinot to resign as editor. Elijah Hicks, a brother-in-law of Chief Ross, was appointed editor in August 1832, but the Phoenix was silenced on May 31, 1834, when the government ran out of money for it. After the Cherokee’s removal to Indian Territory, Cherokee leaders reorganized the government after three major factions reunited in 1839. It was Chief Ross who envisioned reviving a Cherokee newspaper. In October 1843, when the Cherokee National Council met for its regular session, he made the proposal for funding a newspaper. Legislators approved the act establishing the Advocate on Oct. 25, 1843, “to inform and encourage the Cherokees in agriculture, education and religion and to enlighten the world with correct Indian news.” On Sept. 26, 1844, the Advocate’s first issue was printed, in Cherokee and English, in the Supreme Court building (still located south of the Cherokee Capitol Building in Tahlequah) under the guidance of William Potter Ross, a Princeton graduate. Production of the Advocate stopped and started between 1853 and 1906. The paper ceased printing in March 1906 when the CN was dissolved by the U.S. government in preparation for Oklahoma statehood. Today’s Phoenix is one of only a handful of tribal newspapers in the United States that is a free press newspaper, which was made possible by the Cherokee Independent Press Act of 2000. The act protects the newspaper from undue influence from the tribe’s government. Along with a monthly newspaper, the Phoenix has a website and uses social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as a daily email newsletter. “Aside from its historical importance as being the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix played a crucial role in distributing information to Cherokee citizens during troublesome times while we were in the east and facing removal,” CN History and Preservation Officer Catherine Foreman Gray said. “Today, the Phoenix continues to operate as a free press that informs and educates Cherokee citizens on local, state and national issues that impact our tribe and Indian Country.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/20/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – Bassmaster has officially announced the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops will take place in Tahlequah. Tour Tahlequah, more formally known as the Tahlequah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the local sponsor and will partner with Northeastern State University, the Cherokee Nation and local businesses to bring the college fishing tournament July 19-21 to Lake Tenkiller and the city. “What an honor it is to have the city of Tahlequah chosen for the 2018 Bassmaster Collegiate Fishing Tournament,” said Aubrey Valdez, Tour Tahlequah assistant director. “We are gearing up for this event and are excited to show our Oklahoma hospitality to fishermen and spectators. We already have an enormous amount of support from Northeastern State University, Cherokee Nation, city officials and many others, and know July will be here in a flash. We hope to make this a memorable occasion for everyone involved.” Presented by Bass Pro Shops, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship provides the opportunity for college anglers from across the country to compete at a national level. Anglers participating in the championship tournament must first qualify by competing in qualifying tournaments during the 2017-2018 season. At the national championship, one college angler will earn a berth in the biggest tournament in bass fishing: the Bassmaster Classic. “Competing in a national championship tournament is the ultimate goal,” said Tyler Winn, Tahlequah sophomore and NSU fishing team member. “To think this tournament will be here in Tahlequah is unreal. Anglers from all over the country will fish on the lake I’ve grown up on.” The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship is a weeklong event. Anglers arrive on Sunday of tournament week, practicing the mornings of Monday through Wednesday, and competing Thursday through Saturday. While the anglers are on the water, tournament sponsors and staff collaborate to present a series of events for the anglers, fans and community. Event attendance averages 1,000 to 1,500 spectators each day with weigh-in attendance reaching more than 3,000. Weigh-ins are broadcasted live on Bassmaster.com each day. The tournament week is captured and aired at a later date on ESPNU. Tahlequah offers visitors the opportunity to engage in outdoor recreational activities while also being able to learn about Cherokee culture and shop and dine at locally owned businesses. Jon James, NSU alumnus, is the field promotions manager for Dynamic Sponsorships. He played a key role in making Tahlequah a location to be considered for the national tournament. During James’ time as a student, the staff at NSU instilled confidence in him and pushed him to succeed. “NSU played a vital role in helping me grow as a person and bringing the tournament to Tahlequah is a way to say thank you,” said James. “Tahlequah is a wonderful tourist destination and has beautiful fishery in Lake Tenkiller. This is a great place to take a family, and there aren’t many places that have a small town feel but still have the accommodations and resources to support an event like this.” During the tournament, anglers will fish on Lake Tenkiller. However, the key events of the week will primarily take place at NSU. Events including the angler kick-off banquet, angler speaker seminar, sponsor outdoor expo and weigh-ins will occur on the university campus with Seminary Hall as an iconic backdrop. NSU will also be home to the estimated 90 teams of college anglers during their time in Tahlequah. For more information, call 918-456-3742.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
02/20/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizens and members of the Tahlequah Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers on Feb. 8 dedicated a memorial stone honoring military veterans at the Cherokee Warrior Memorial adjacent to the Tribal Complex. The stone reads: “Honoring our Military Sons and Daughters, Blue Star Mother’s OK21, Tahlequah, OK.” BSMOK21 President Billie Walker and Founder Melody Parker dedicated the stone before a small group consisting of Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief and U.S. Navy veteran S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd and CN Veterans Center Director Barbara Foreman. “It took a year to make this memorial a reality,” Walker said. “There are sons and daughters deployed now. This stone will be here long after they get home.” The stone was Parker’s idea. “Each month our chapter sends boxes of items to our soldiers. Items like gloves, socks, anything we can afford that make their time away easier. It let’s them know we’re thinking of them. One hundred percent of the Blue Star Mother’s funding comes from donations.” Crittenden said he was thrilled to see the addition to the Cherokee Warriors Memorial and is grateful from where it came. “I served in the Navy in the 1960s. It meant the world to us when we received items from home. What the Blue Star Mothers did today and every day is important because the soldiers they help are out there for us. They deserve to know they aren’t forgotten,” he said. For information on the Blue Star Mothers in Tahlequah, visit their Facebook page.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
02/19/2018 04:00 PM
GLENPOOL – Native artists from Oklahoma and out-of-state tribes gathered to show their works and educate the public about their crafts Feb. 9-11 at the 31st Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival. The festival, the largest inter-tribal fine art show in the Tulsa area, also ranks among the best fine art shows for genuine Native art in the country. Chairman Robert Trepp said the event began in 1987 and was inspired by the cast of the 1984 American Indian Theater Company production “Black Elk Speaks.” “It was really inspired by a lot of the cast from ‘Black Elk Speaks’ that was put on here in Tulsa, and it’s just grown through the years,” Trepp said. “It’s nationally known. It’s got a big emphasis on Eastern Woodlands cultures, which most shows do not have.” Volunteers largely run the festival as it draws various artists including painters, potters and jewelers. “We have artists from all over the country,” Trepp said. “I think for local artists it’s an opportunity for them especially to see each other again and to have that fellowship to share ideas, compare notes as to what they’ve been up to. And for our people out of state, it’s an opportunity for them to come and meet with our local artists.” Trepp said the festival especially emphasizes citizens of local tribes, including Cherokees. “The Cherokee are one of the largest tribes in the country, and they sit right here. Their territory wraps all the way around the Tulsa metropolitan area,” he said. “They have a huge influence on Native people and relationships with Native people here in Tulsa.” The GTIAF 2018 Featured Artist was Jane Osti, a Cherokee National Treasure whose pottery piece “Woodland Song” was chosen for this year’s festival poster. “This is one of the first shows that I did when I started doing art and selling art,” Osti said. “This is a good nurturing ground and you don’t get too big for it either. You can still do the show even though it might have been one of your starting shows.” Osti said she’s been doing pottery for more than 30 years and makes her Woodland pieces “the traditional way.” “I make pottery the old way, the traditional way of hand coiling and they are usually kiln-fired first and then wood-fired,” she said. “The designs and the shapes, a lot of them are from our very old pottery, but sort of moved around in a contemporary way. My teacher was Anna Mitchell, master Cherokee potter and that was the way she did pottery. Just about any Cherokee making pottery has either learned from Anna, or learned from one of us that has learned from her…” Osti said most people only recognize Southwest pottery, but that she’s seeing a shift. “A few people are noticing the Woodland Pottery and the Woodland works in general,” she said. “I make pottery and teach it. It’s the way I make a living, but it’s also to ensure that we keep doing our traditional work and passing it on, educating the general public and our customers about our Woodland pottery.” Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Lee Smith conducted painting demonstrations to give the public a peek into his creative process. “It’s hard for me to engage, and that’s what I want to do. I want to show it to people. That’s the reason I do it,” he said. “It gives them insight to the process I’m going through. It might make no sense to them on site, but it allows me to relax and get in my comfort zone.” Smith said much of his work is influenced by nature, as well as from stories his grandmother passed down to him. “My grandmother taught me little things like what bird makes this sound and how to grow tomatoes and all these core things that I didn’t know were important until I got older,” he said. “These birds and all these animals, all these things, they were like characters in a story to me, all of them throughout growing up. They seem to be the most honest depiction of things.” He describes his work as “simple” and “a little tongue-in-cheek,” but hopes that it’s humorous to the public and inspires a “good” feeling. Smith said he doesn’t worry about rules when it comes to medium or his vibrant color choices. “As far as the rules, the technical training that I’ve had in grad school and undergrad where they tell you what paint to use on what surface and what type of brush and all that, I feel like it’s almost like they taught me what not to do,” he said. “It just is a little more liberating to break tradition. The things just sort of find their place, and I’m just kind of like a landlord. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t do this.”