Giving viewers an opportunity to see artwork by nationally-recognized indigenous artists and starting some conversations around the topic of Native American stereotyping are goals for a second temporary exhibit opening at the Johnson County Museum during November.
Savages and Princesses - The Persistence of Native American Stereotypes, is the name of this exhibit, which opens Nov. 20. First curated by America Meredith, a Native American artist in Oklahoma, this exhibit consists of more than thirty contemporary artworks by 13 nationally-recognized Native American artists, and includes small art objects, framed pieces, and a giant installation.
“The pieces deal with the theme of stereotyping Native Americans and the wide diversity of Native American cultures,” said Museum Curator of Interpretation Andrew Gustafson. “Themes like the ‘savage warrior’ or the ‘drunken Indian’ are everywhere in popular culture, from books to movies to sports team mascots. This exhibit really takes a look at the stereotypes, and through the use of emotion - humor, anger, sadness - helps visitors to reflect on those stereotypes. It is a great opportunity to learn about another point of view, to learn about ourselves, and a chance to make ourselves more aware of other cultures in our own community.”
Gustafson said he believes an art exhibit is a great way to tackle a tough topic like pop culture stereotyping.
“Art by its very nature creates dialogue - people want to talk about what they are seeing and experiencing in front of them,” he said. “Art also has the power to make us feel what the artist is trying to convey, and does not have to work around the inherent meaning that might be associated with a historical object. I think this exhibit will really pull some emotion of out visitors.”
This exhibit is made possible by Mid-America Arts Alliance and Exhibits USA, as well as through funding from Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC) and the National Endowment for the Arts. The November start of the exhibit ties into National Native American Heritage Month, and Savages and Princesses: The Persistence of Native American Stereotypes will be on display in the museum’s exhibit room through March 14.
Several tie-in programs to this exhibit are being planned, including a panel discussion called Distorted Images: Indians in Popular Culture set for Feb. 17. This panel will be moderated by the original exhibit’s curator, America Meredith, and will feature local and national Native American artists, curators, and activists. The panel will tackle the tough themes of the exhibit, as well as contemporary realities for Native Americans in the United States, and promises to be a thought-provoking event. Other programs relating to this exhibit include a Lunch & Learn on Nov. 22 called Disruption Then Disease (22947), and another Lunch & Learn on Jan. 23 called Resettlement and Reeducation of Indians in Kansas. Registration for this program begins Nov. 18 with the release of the January through April issue of the My JCPRD Activities catalog.
The museum’s other current temporary exhibit, which opened on Nov. 12, is called Dreaming of a Retro Xmas. It celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Evergleam, the first commercially-successful aluminum Christmas tree. This exhibit features the collection of Johnson County residents Steve and Mary Pruitt, which includes aluminum Christmas trees and other vintage Christmas decorations from the 1950s and 60s, as well as some of the museum’s own collection of Johnson County-based Christmas décor. Dreaming of a Retro Xmas will remain on display in and around All Electric House inside the museum through Jan. 11.
Both temporary exhibits will take place at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park. Exhibit admission is included with regular museum admission rates of $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children, until Jan. 1, when museum admission increases to $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and is closed on Sunday.