Posted December 12, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Campus Life

New Indigenous Arts Campus in the Works

By Emma Rotolo

Evergreen’s Longhouse is taking on the design of an Indigenous Arts Campus, a collection of buildings near the Longhouse with studios for native arts. The campus is still at its early stages, and will be planned in increments over the course of a few years, though it is already brimming with possibilities. I met with Erin Genia, the program coordinator of the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, to talk about the details of the project.

The architect, John Paul Jones of Jones and Jones based out of Seattle, is working with the Longhouse, which he previously designed, to construct the Indigenous Arts Campus. Jones is both Choctaw and Cherokee, and is most recognized for designing the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. He was recently one of the 10 people to win the humanities medal from President Obama this past year. Jones has been very open with working with the needs of the Longhouse and native artists in the surrounding region. Specific meetings have been held with native weavers in the surrounding region because a fiber arts studio will be built on the new campus. They are also working with Evergreen facilities, who approved the master plan.

Along with the fiber arts studio, other additions to be highlighted are the construction of a larger carving studio, a cast glass studio, and studios for faculty and students. According to Genia, a cast glass studio was chosen over a blowing glass studio because there is already a blowing glass studio at the Glass Museum in Tacoma. Cast glass also involves less money and energy.

The lead artist for the design of the facility is Lyonel Grant. He is a Maori sculptor who has been sponsored by the New Zealand government to come to Evergreen and assist with the design of the Indigenous Arts Campus. Grant spent time with a topographical map and envisioned the campus like a salmon from an aerial view. “As a Maori he is steeped in his culture,” said Genia. She also spoke about Grant’s visit to Evergreen and some inspiration he found from a rock he found in the stream behind the carving studio. It was a large granite rock that, if he had been looking down from an aerial view, was in the same place that an egg would be inside a salmon. He began carving it into a foundational stone from the fiber arts studio. Having a specific foundational stone is Maori tradition.

Grant will be coming back in the future to work on projects such as totem polls to show the relationship the Evergreen Longhouse has made with Maori artists over the years. Many Maori artists from New Zealand have come to Evergreen through the Longhouse International Indigenous Residency Program.

In 2008, the Longhouse received a $500,000 Ford Foundation grant to build the fiber arts studio. The fiber arts studio is the current and second phase since pitching the idea of the indigenous arts campus as a whole. If you would like to see what art is currently circulating through the longhouse check out the Holiday Native Arts Fair this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13.