SANTA FE, N.M. – Cherokee Nation citizen and artist Lisa Rutherford took part in a four-week artist-in-residence program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in April.
In her experience, she said she was “totally supported” by the institute to work on and share her art.
Rutherford takes part in numerous artistic trades such as ceramics, pottery, beadwork, twining, shell carving and piecing together historic clothing such as feather capes.
She is best known for her pottery, which earned her the title of Cherokee National Treasure and the Anna Mitchell Award in 2018. Anna Mitchell was a Cherokee National Treasure who revived Southeastern-style pottery in the 1960s.
Rutherford taught classes previously at IAIA when she heard of the residency program.
“I heard about it because I had taught out here, I taught feather capes out here about five years ago,” she said. “I taught two evening classes. I just love the campus and love the school. When I heard about this opportunity,
I thought that will be fun working and interacting with the students, getting to learn about other people’s cultures. They completely support you. It’s just been a month dedicated to working on my art.”
While there, she was provided a furnished apartment, received two free meals a day,
received stipends for supplies and travel and was paid an average of $750 per week, which depends on the length of the residency.
“You don’t have to worry about making money and paying your bills for the month, you’re totally supported,” she said.
Rutherford said she was able to focus on
her art and teach classes. She also shared a studio space with an artist from Alaska, whose culture hails from her Gwich’in and Japanese roots.
“I taught a class of 10 students how to make twine bags. I think that’s probably been my favorite thing, is interacting with the students on campus,” she said. “I got to meet a lot of students. They were curious. They got to start their bags and being art students, they kind of made it their own, took it their own direction. They were just very polite.”
She said her first few days were a little hectic having to acclimate to the weather and altitude of the location.
“Once I learned my way around, I was a lot more comfortable. It seems like it took me two weeks to really get settled in and get my projects started and really get into it. And now I’m starting to get a lot of work done on projects,” she said.
Rutherford recommends the program to other Cherokee artists.
“I do encourage Cherokees to take advantage of this artist in residence program,” she said. “They have several opportunities in the spring and fall. Just for the experience of living in another state and another climate for a month. At first, I was out of my comfort zone, but now I’m a lot more comfortable. I know my way around. I feel like it has helped me grow as an artist to have this different experience from my every day environment.”