By Ruby Love
This past Thursday marked the opening of sgʷigʷialʔtxʷ at 20: Building upon the Past, Visioning into the Future, a new exhibit at Evergreen Gallery celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Longhouse.
I arrived early, and there were already people milling around outside the gallery doors, peering through the glass to get a glimpse of the artwork as gallery assistants rushed to and fro making final preparations. As the doors opened, the gallery quickly filled with people, slowly making their way around the room, which overflowed with the work of over 70 artists. The work on display varied greatly in size, style, and medium, and one might wonder why these artists in particular had been brought together into one exhibit. In celebration of their 20th year, the Longhouse brought together a huge group of artists who “have had had an impact on the work of the Longhouse over the years.” Many of the artists featured in the exhibit have taken (or taught!) workshops and classes at The Longhouse, or created their artwork through grants facilitated by them. This exhibit provides a striking physical example of the incredible dedication of The Longhouse to indigenous arts and cultural education over the past 20 years.
The exhibit was full of art, and I found myself dodging through the crowd to try and get a look at each piece. Exquisite woven baskets, traditional hunting hats, drums, and blown glass sculptures were situated on columns and stands and in cases throughout the room. The walls were lined with paintings, photography, and even more three-dimensional artwork.
After visitors had a chance to take in the artwork, drumming called the crowd out to the hallway and people packed the small space to find out which artists had won first, second, and third place awards for their craftsmanship. Two of the winning artists were present, and as they accepted their awards they spoke about the intensive research on traditional craftsmanship that informed their artwork, and how their family – and tribal – histories influenced their artistic passion. Their words reminded me that the process of making art extends far outside oneself, and it is incredibly powerful to draw on knowledge of one’s history.
While I do not regret seeing this show on opening night — I got the opportunity to hear from the curators and some of the artists featured in the show — I do plan on returning at least once on a quieter day, when I can really absorb the details of each piece.
You have plenty of opportunities to see this show, as it runs through May 11. The gallery (located on the second floor of the library) is open weekdays (except Wednesday) from 10-5. I highly recommend stopping in and taking a look!