Arts center ‘incubator’ for Native artists
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Arts Center at 212 S. Water St. is helping Native artists old and young find the resources they need to sharpen their skills and turn their crafts into businesses.
CAC staff members are certified through the First Peoples Fund, a South Dakota-based organization that supports creative community-centered First Peoples artists, to teach artists who are looking to become more grounded in their business skills, Ryan Lee Smith, cultural resource specialist, said.
Smith said the CAC is a “small business incubator for artists.” In addition to the small business training, the CAC provides space for artists to work on and display their art.
“We offer them a place to, number one, to show their stuff in the gallery for some retail,” Smith said. “We offer them workspaces, like we have a ceramics, pottery studio back here with two big kilns that we’ll have people come in and teach with.”
Smith said the CAC acts as a “platform” for established artists, emerging artists and those yet to see their talent recognized. He said the CAC employees help with assembling portfolios, promotional packets and to be the mediators between the artists and administration.
“I’m here to talk to the artist, see what they need, facilitate whatever they need, but we’re not giving anything away,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a self-help thing. You can come in here and work and teach these classes, make your money and keep it going.”
Smith said several artists, including Cherokee National Treasures Dorothy Ice, Knokovtee Scott and Jane Osti, have used the CAC to pass on their crafts to aspiring artists. The CAC takes a small deposit and does the promoting for the class, but how much the artist wants to charge students is up to the artist.
“We’re here strictly for the artist,” Smith said. “There’s no incubator kind of thing that I know of around here, especially that targets Native artists, and tried to empower them, promote them, encourage them to do better, make money and find worth in the stuff they’re doing. And also to preserve art that otherwise would be lost.”
Cherokee Nation employee and loom weaver Candessa Tehee said she shares the concern for dying art forms, which is why she began taking Dorothy Ice’s loom weaving class at the CAC. She said she remembers reading an article from 1978 in which her grandfather said, “no one’s loom weaving anymore,” and that there are only a handful of loom weavers living today.
“If we don’t start picking up this real, true Cherokee tradition, then, you know I worry that it really will die,” Tehee said. “Hopefully other Cherokees out there are going to go, ‘Hey, look. I can do this, too.’ And they can do it with the help of the Cherokee Arts Center.”
Tehee said she first heard about the CAC when it was advertised in Ice’s loom weaving class. Tehee’s background was in finger weaving but thought tabletop loom weaving was the next step in following in her grandfather’s footsteps. After taking the class and visiting with fellow artists, she spoke with CAC employees about obtaining a loom, and they helped her obtain a small business loan through the CN.
“I got with Donna (Tinnin, supervisor for Community Tourism) and she pointed me in the right direction,” Tehee said. “I turned in my forms and it was about a week and a half later, maybe, I had a check. It took longer for my loom to come in than it did for the loan to go through.”
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰ. – ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎾᎿ 212 ᎤᎦᏅᏩᏮᎢ. ᎠᎹ ᎦᏅᏅ…… ᏓᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᎠᏁᎯᏯ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᎦᏴᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏓᎨᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᏩᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᏅᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᏂᎬᎬ ᎤᎪᏗᎨ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎦᏳᎳ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎲ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎤᏃᏢᏗ ᎤᏂᎾᏗᏅᏗ ᎤᏃᏢᏅᏅᎢ.
CAC ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁ ᎠᏁᎳ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎠᏕᎳ ᏚᏂᎲ ᎬᏔᏅᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᎦᎾᏮ ᏓᎪᏓ ᏧᎾᎳᏏᏓ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏓᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ, ᏧᏁᏲᏗ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᏯᏂᎦᏖᏃᎯ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎢᏳᏅᏗ ᎬᏩᏂᎾᏗᏅᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏃᏢᏅᏅᎢ, Ryan Lee Smith, ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏅᏔ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ.
Smith ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᏧᏍᏗ ᏧᏂᏅᏙᏗ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᏳᎾᏚᎵ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ.” ᎤᎪᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ CAC ᎠᎵᏍᎪᎸᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᏂᏞᏅᏗ ᎤᏃᏢᏅᏅ ᏴᏫ ᎬᏩᏂᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎤᏃᏢᏅᏅᎢ.
“ᏙᏣᎵᏍᎪᎸᏓᏁᎰ ᎤᏂᏢᏅᏗ, ᏌᏊ ᎨᏒ, ᎤᏂᏢᏅᏗ ᎤᏃᏢᏅᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏴᏫ ᎬᏩᏂᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎬᏩᏂᏍᎪᎸᏙᏗ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Smith. “ᏙᏣᎵᏍᎪᎸᏓᏁᎰ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎤᏠᏅᏛᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎦᏓᎫᎩ ᏧᏃᏢᏗ ᎣᏅᏗᏝ ᎠᎴ ᏔᎵ ᏧᏔᎾ ᏧᏅᏂᏍᏙᏗ ᎦᏓᎫᎦ ᏧᏃᏢᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᎷᎪ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏗᎢ.”
Smith ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ CAC “ᎠᎾᏚᏓᎸᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᏍᏕᎸᏗ” ᎤᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ, ᏃᏊᎴ ᎠᎾᎴᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲ. ᎤᏛᏅᏃ ᎾᎿ CAC ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᏧᏂᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎤᏂᏟᏐᏗ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎸ, ᏧᎾᏓᎪᏩᏛᏙᏗ ᎠᏁᏙᎲ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏃᎮᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎡᏙᎯ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏄᏂᎬᏩᏳᏌᏕᎦ.
“ᎨᏙᎭ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎦᏥᎵᏃᎮᏙᏗ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ, ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᎷᎶᏤᎲ, ᎠᎯᏗᎨ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᏂᎬᎬᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ Ꮭ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᏎᏊ ᏲᏣᏓᏁᎰᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅ Smith. “ᎣᏩᏌᏊ ᎠᎵᏍᏕᎸᏗ. ᏣᏴᏟᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏣᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ, ᏗᏣᏕᏲᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ, ᎠᏕᎳ ᏦᏢᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏣᏂᎩᏍᏙᏗᎢ.
Smith ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ, ᏕᎨᎳᏗᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏧᎾᏓᏃᏣᏟ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ Dorothy Ice, Knokovtee Scott ᎠᎴ Jane Osti, ᎤᏅᏔᎾ ᎯᎠ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᎾᏅᏁᎲ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲᎢ. ᎾᎿ CAC ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎪ ᎤᏍᏓ ᎠᏠᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᎾᏅᏁᎭ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ, ᏃᏊᏃ ᎢᎦ ᏧᏂᎬᏩᎶᏙᏗ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ.
“ᏙᎯᏳ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩᏊ ᎢᎦ ᎤᎬᏩᏟ ᎣᏥᏯᎠ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Smith. “ᏝᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏳᏙᏢᎭ ᎾᎥᏂᎩᏍᏗ ᎠᎭᏂ, ᎤᏙᎯᏳᏒ ᎠᏁᎯᏯ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᎤᎾᏓᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗ, ᏗᎦᏂᎵᏕᏗ, ᏓᏤᎸ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏗ ᏗᏍᏕᎸᏗᎢ, ᎠᏕᎳ ᎤᏃᏢᏗ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲ. ᎠᎴ ᎤᎾᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᎢᏳᏍᏓ ᎠᏃᏢᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏂᏲᏎᏗ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ.
ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ loom ᏗᎬᏍᎩ Candessa Tehee ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏓᏅᏖᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏂᎦᏴᎵ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎲ ᎤᎵᏛᏙᏗᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᏧᎵᏍᏙᏔᏂ ᎤᎴᏅᎲ ᏓᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ Dorothy Ice ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏧᏅᏗ ᎾᎿ CAC. ᎤᏛᏅᏃ ᎠᏅᏓᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎪᎵᏰᎥ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎦᎵᏆᏍᎪ ᏧᏁᎳ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏍᏒ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏚᏓ ᎤᏛᏅ, ᏝᏃ ᎩᎶ ᏱᏗᎬᏍᎪ loomᎢ ᏃᏊ,” ᎠᎴ ᎢᎸᏍᎦᏊ ᎠᏁᎭ ᏗᏅᏍᎦ ᎪᎯᏴ ᏥᎩ.
“ᎢᏳᏃ ᏂᎦᎴᏅᏓ ᏱᎩ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᎦᏴᎵ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎵᏙᎸ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ, ᎠᏆᏓᏅᏖᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᎵᏛᏙᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Tehee. ᎠᏉᎯᏳᏃ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏛᏁᏏ ᏛᎾᏕᎶᏆᎢ, Ꮎ, ᏄᏍᏗ ᏥᎦᏔᎭ, ᎡᎵᏊ ᎢᏮᏆᏛᏗ. ᎠᎴ ᎢᎬᏩᎾᏛᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᎦᏍᏙᏛ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎠᏰᏟ.”
Tehee ᎤᏛᏅ ᎠᎬᏱ ᎤᏛᎦᏅ CAC ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᎾᏅᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏁᏍᏓᎵ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏗᎬᏗᎢ. Tehee ᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᎦᏅᏛ ᎾᎿ ᏓᏂᏰᏌᏛ ᎬᏗ ᏓᏅᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎦᏍᎩᎶᎩ ᎦᏚ ᏓᏅᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏐᎢ ᎠᎳᏍᎬᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏚᏓ ᎤᎦᏙᎲᏒᎢ. ᎤᏍᏆᏓᏃ ᏓᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᏚᏩᏛᎯᏙᎳ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ, ᏚᏟᏃᎮᏔᏅ ᎾᎿ CAC ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎬᏩᎩᏍᏗ ᏱᎩ ᏗᎬᏗᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏍᏕᎸᎲ ᎤᎩᏍᏗ ᎦᏲᏟ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᎵᏍᎪᎸᏚᎢ.
“ᏥᎵᏃᎲᏔᏅ Donna (Tinnin, ᏗᏓᏘᏂᏙᎯ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᏂᎦᏖᏃᎵᏙ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ) ᎠᎴ ᏩᎩᏎᎮᎸ ᏚᏳᎪᏛ ᎢᏗᏝ,” ᎤᏛᏅ Tehee. “ᏩᎩᏅᏅ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎠᎩᎧᎵᏏᏌᏅ ᎠᎴ ᏒᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᏍᏗ ᎤᎶᏒᏓ ᎠᏕᎳ ᏗᏎᎯᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏁᏒ. ᎠᎪᎯᎸ ᎤᏟᎢᎵᏙᎸ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎬᏗ ᎤᎷᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᏃ ᎠᏕᎳ ᏧᎷᎯᏍᏗᎢ.”