Cherokee artists’ market at CHC in works

02/12/2019 08:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Charles Gourd talks about pieces, including a saddle, in a Will Rogers exhibit on Feb. 6 at the CHC in Park Hill. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PARK HILL – Convinced there’s an untapped market for Cherokee art, the Cherokee Heritage Center is pushing for an artists’ hub on site and online.

The center’s executive director, Charles Gourd, envisions a monthly outdoor marketplace on the 44-acre historical campus in areas used by vendors during the Cherokee National Holiday. Wares sold could include pottery, baskets, paintings and other Indian-crafted art.

“We want to create a space or an opportunity for local Cherokee artists to come and set up and sell their works,” he said. “We’re going to plan to have it on one Saturday a month when we have ‘Cherokee Days,’ because Cherokee citizens can come here and get free admission.”

While there are other market-related options such as art shows or galleries, Gourd described them as too expensive or simply full.

“We have people who do phenomenal art,” Gourd said. “Most of them need a place where they can sell and market. I’ve talked about it long enough, and now there’s an interest, so I have challenged the artists. We just ordered $7,000 worth of chairs and tables. We will have, in a very short time frame now, the capacity to do it.”

Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez supports the concept. “I know there’s a lot of artists out there that do not go to shows. They have jobs. They don’t have time to travel. But they would like to sell their work somewhere, so I think it’s a good idea.”

Gourd also sees opportunity online to attract buyers from across the globe.

“That’s the big one,” he said. “I’m convinced there’s a market out there. We’re redesigning our web page. So I want to put an art market on there where we can sell online. We could have pictures of all this stuff. We can authenticate it. We can get a picture of the artist that makes it.”

The front-end target market would be “all these Cherokees that live somewhere else,” Gourd said.

“I don’t care if you call it a guilt trip or not, you need a Cherokee basket on your mantle,” he said. “You need some pottery in your kitchen. If you’re a real Cherokee, you will buy this.”

The artists, Gourd said, would be required to provide authentic, quality pieces.

“I’m not going to sell tourists junk,” he said. “I also have to have supply. I have to know that if you make 10 baskets and those sell, how many more are you going to make and when will it happen.”

Also, the artists would be given business-related guidance along the way, Gourd said.

“A lot of the time, the artists, bless their hearts, they’re lousy business people,” he said. “They’re incredibly creative, but they don’t know how to price their stuff. They don’t know what it’s worth. Unless we provide an incentive – sales – people are going to quit making this stuff.”

The CHC is at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information, call 918-456-6007 or 1-888-999-6007, email or visit

‘Cherokee Kid’ exhibit headed home


PARK HILL – When the young Will Rogers-themed exhibit departs the Cherokee Heritage Center on March 30, its next and final destination is the famous Oklahoman’s birthplace in Oologah.

“Usually what happens when we have an exhibit and you take it down, it’s kind of put down in the basement,” CHC Executive Director Charles Gourd said. “So I think that’s a tremendous use.”

Since late September, “The Cherokee Kid: A Will Rogers Exhibit” has been featured at the center via a partnership with the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. It highlights the early life of Rogers, a Cherokee Nation citizen who went on to become a stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, humorist, newspaper columnist and social commentator in the 1920s and 1930s.

When the exhibit ends, it will be transferred to the sprawling Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch to be set up in an unused barn as a permanent attraction, Gourd said.

“They’re fixing up the barn now,” he said.

The relocated exhibit is slated to open during a Will Rogers birthday celebration, Gourd said. Rogers was born Nov. 4, 1879.

The exhibit shares details about Rogers’ Cherokee lineage and life in Indian Territory before becoming an international star.

The Will Rogers Memorial Museum loaned one of Rogers’ saddles, hats, a lariat and a pair of cowboy boots for the exhibit. The exhibit also contains artifacts from the CHC’s collection.
About the Author
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late  ... • 918-453-5269
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late ...


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