IN THE SPIRIT Contemporary Native Arts

This summer marks the Washington State Historical Society’s 12th annual IN THE SPIRIT Contemporary Native Arts Exhibition. The show is displayed at the History Museum in Tacoma. Works on view will include textiles, sculptures, paintings, carvings, and basketry. Materials run the gamut from natural elements—stone, shell, clay, wood, minerals, and grass, for example—to products like seed beads, steel, fabric, glass, and linoleum, and even petroleum-based items such as LEDs, plastic straws, and Styrofoam.

Each spring, Native artists from many western states and Canada submit work for consideration by a jury of local artists and curators. The jury has the pleasure of seeing the latest in Native art, and the difficult challenge of winnowing down a selection of works for the exhibition. The 2017 exhibition includes 22 works by artists from Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Washington, and Canada. This dynamic process provides an annual opportunity for the Washington State History Museum to showcase Native artists from the broader region, and for artists to win honors and awards. Each year the museum adds one work from the exhibition to its collection.

IN THE SPIRIT continues the connection between the Historical Society’s Native collections and the vibrant contemporary arts scene. The exhibition is ever-changing, reflecting the variety of works entered for jurying, the artists who choose to enter, the interests and backgrounds of the jurors, as well as changes in political and social contexts,” said Mary Mikel Stump, Director of Audience Engagement at WSHS. “It is an honor to meet these artists. Some works are deeply influenced by tradition while others use that tradition as a jumping off point for a more contemporary take, and, yet, some beautifully blend traditional methods and materials and contemporary forms. Truly, the past is present in these exemplary artworks.”

The exhibition is on view through Sunday, August 20, and is displayed in two adjacent galleries on the museum’s 5th floor. At the opening celebration on June 15, artist awards will be presented for Best in Show, Honoring Innovation, Honoring the Northwest, and Honoring Tradition. During the run of the exhibition, museum visitors can cast votes for the People’s Choice First and Second Place awards. Voting ballots are available in both galleries.

The People’s Choice awards will be presented at the free IN THE SPIRIT Northwest Native Festival. Mark your calendars for this indoor/outdoor celebration on Saturday, August 19, from 10:00 AM through 5:00 PM. The History Museum is co-hosting the festival with Tacoma Art Museum (TAM). Admission to both museums is free. In addition to a Native arts market, the festival includes dance, song, music, food, and a runway fashion show featuring Native designers. Both the History Museum and TAM have long celebrated Native American arts and culture, and the museums are pleased to collaborate in bringing this enriching festival to the community.

“The tradition of opening IN THE SPIRIT on Third Thursday makes the occasion extra special,” said Lead Program Manager Molly Wilmoth. “We can best honor the artists and feature their amazing works by opening the exhibition when the museum is accessible to everyone. We hope that the community will enjoy the opportunity to meet some of the artists in person and see their works.”

The History Museum is free every Third Thursday from 2:00 – 8:00 PM. Free Third Thursdays are generously sponsored by Columbia Bank.