IAIA’s Dr. Lara Evans to Guest Curate Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Invitational
Dr. Lara Evans (Cherokee Nation), IAIA’s new director of its Research Center for Contemporary Native Arts (RCCNA), will be guest curator for the Renwick Invitational 2023 presented at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. The Renwick Invitational, established in 2000, highlights mid-career and emerging makers deserving of wider national recognition. This tenth installment of the invitational features, for the first time, all Native American artists.
This exhibition, opening in May 2023, features the works of Joe Feddersen (Arrow Lakes/Okanagan), Geo Neptune (Passamaquoddy), Erica Lord (Athabaskan/Iñupiat), Maggie Thompson (Fond du Lac Oijibwe), and the duo of Lily Hope (Tlingit) and Ursala Hudson (Tlingit). Joe Feddersen, Maggie Thompson, and Erica Lord have all been Artists-in-Residence at IAIA. Erica Lord has also been an adjunct faculty in Studio Arts for several years and recently obtained full-time status at IAIA as Visiting Faculty of Studio Arts.
As guest curator, Dr. Evans will be working closely with selected artists to determine which artworks will best suit the exhibition. “It’s great to work with artists as they’re making their work,” Dr. Evans says. “Each of the artists in some way calls upon their cultural traditions in their artwork. That carries the symbolism for artistic technique that they use. They’re honored to carry that knowledge for how they use their symbolism and their materials.”
The artists werej selected by a panel of three distinguished Native scholars, including Dr. Evans, Miranda Belarde-Lewis (Zuni/Tlingit), independent curator and the Jill and Joe McKinstry Endowed Faculty Fellow of Native North American Indigenous Knowledge at the University of Washington’s iSchool, and Anya Montiel (Mexican/Tohono O’odham descent), curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Dr. Evans noted that it is significant the nation’s preeminent center for American craft is organizing an exhibition dedicated to Native artists working today. “The theme, honors and burdens, is connected to what we’re all experiencing right now,” Dr. Evans says. “The pandemic, climate change, and a whole host of things that are burdens upon us, are also part of our responsibilities. Things that are honors are simultaneously a recognition of the importance of what we do, but also carry obligations.”
In addition to being guest curator for the Renwick Invitational 2023, Dr. Lara Evans is also Director of IAIA’s new Research Center for Contemporary Native Arts (RCCNA). Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, RCCNA has been undergoing development for the past three years and is now in the first and second phases of three-phased construction. RCCNA greatly extends IAIA’s objective to study, preserve, and disseminate traditional and contemporary Native American arts, cultures, literature, and history. It will consolidate services that IAIA already provides by physically moving the IAIA Archives to join the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) collection in one comprehensive location. The IAIA Research Center for Contemporary Native Arts will be located in the Barbara and Robert Ells Science and Technology Building on the IAIA campus.
For IAIA students and other individuals wishing to research Native American arts and cultures, RCCNA will provide tremendous support, as before, when researching, students often had to consult with the MoCNA collection and the IAIA Archives separately, meaning that they had to make appointments in two different locations, severely extending the time and effort involved. “Something that has hampered Native artists is that there is comparatively little published about Native artists,” Dr. Evans explains. “Students who are studying Native art don’t have the same kinds of resources as people studying Western artists. Our goal is to change that by making information about Native art more widely available and much easier to access.” This new location, which will include the IAIA Archives, an Archives classroom, and a Collections Classroom, will allow students to view archives and artworks side by side, facilitating accelerated research with access to primary source material. Dr. Evans says, “At the IAIA Research Center for Contemporary Native Arts, our goal is to unite art, artists, and archives.”
In addition to the physical location, RCCNA will also contain a digital component, with much of the information being searchable in IAIA’s database, which students will be able to access anywhere, including off campus.
For more information, please contact IAIA Director of Communications Jason S. Ordaz at [email protected].
About the Institute of American Indian Arts
The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is the only college in the world dedicated to the study of contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts. IAIA offers undergraduate degrees in Cinematic Arts and Technology, Creative Writing, Indigenous Liberal Studies, Museum Studies, Performing Arts, and Studio Arts; graduate degrees in Creative Writing and Studio Arts; and certificates in Broadcast Journalism, Business and Entrepreneurship, Museum Studies, and Native American Art History. The college serves approximately 500 full-time equivalent (FTE) Native and non-Native American students from around the globe, representing nearly a hundred federally recognized tribes. Named one of the top art institutions by UNESCO and the International Association of Art, IAIA is among the leading art institutes in our nation and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).