Contemporary Native American Artists Connect with Traditional Art Forms in New Exhibit

For immediate release

Release dated: 
August 3, 2017
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, Marketing and Communications, 651-259-3148,
Ben Gessner, Collections, 651-259-3281,

Contemporary Native American Artists Connect with Traditional Art Forms in New Exhibit

Five artists from the Upper Midwest featured in exhibit opening Sept. 23 at the Minnesota History Center

Original beadwork, birch bark and textile artwork by five contemporary American Indian artists will be on display alongside the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) artifacts that inspired them, in the new exhibit “Renewing What They Gave Us: Native American Artists in Residence,” Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 - Sunday, April 22, 2018, at the Minnesota History Center.

Floral vest by Holly Young
(Floral vest by Holly Young. View all artwork images here.)

The artists, Jessica Gokey (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians), Pat Kruse (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), Denise Lajimodiere, (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), Gwen Westerman (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), and Holly Young (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe), created the artwork as part of the MNHS Native American Artist-in-Residence program. View exhibit images here. Since 2014, the program has helped revive the study of technique, knowledge, and lifeways associated with traditional forms of American Indian artistry.

For centuries, American Indian artistic and cultural practices have been passed down from one generation to the next. But this process experienced disruptions when American Indians were pressured to assimilate with other cultures and when they were removed from their traditional homelands to reservations. At the same time, many museums and cultural organizations, like MNHS, grew their collections of American Indian artwork.

Today, MNHS acknowledges its role in this disruption and is working to become a resource for American Indian communities. MNHS believes that museums can assist artists in connecting with works created by their ancestors and can provide support for learning, practicing and teaching. It is critical for museums to support the recovery of cultural art forms that are in danger of being lost altogether.

Exhibit text will be presented in Ojibwe, Dakota and English. The exhibit is free with regular History Center admission of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, veterans/active military and college students, $6 ages 5 to 17, free age 4 and under and MNHS members.

The Native American Artist-In-Residence program is open to artists from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Each artist serves a six-month paid residency to study the collections at MNHS and other institutions to aid in a better understanding of their respective art forms. They also share their knowledge by developing programming in their home communities.

The Native American Artist-in-Residence program is made possible in part by a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

Funding for “Renewing What They Gave Us: Native American Artists in Residence” exhibit is made possible in part by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Summer Fund. Additional support is provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008.

About the Minnesota History Center
The Minnesota History Center holds the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. The History Center is home to an innovative museum, engaging public programs, a research library, distinctive gift shops and Market House by D’Amico restaurant.

The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd. W. in St. Paul. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays (admission is free on Tuesdays from 3 to 8 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Auxiliary aids and services are available with advance notice. For more information, call 651-259-3000 or 1-800-657-3773.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history. Visit us at

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.