‘Generations’ of art and culture of the Tulalip Tribes

Carvings, metal sculptures, blown and cast glass, prints, weavings, baskets, clothing, musical instruments and jewelry by members of the Tulalip Tribes will be featured in this year’s Art Education in Action exhibit presented by the Arts Council of Snohomish County.

  • Wednesday, April 30, 2008 5:00am
  • Life

Arts Council of Snohomish County features Tulalip artists in annual Art Education in Action exhibit

Carvings, metal sculptures, blown and cast glass, prints, weavings, baskets, clothing, musical instruments and jewelry by members of the Tulalip Tribes will be featured in this year’s Art Education in Action exhibit presented by the Arts Council of Snohomish County.

A “Meet the Artists” reception starts at 5 p.m., Thursday, May 1.

As part of the opening reception, the Tulalip Canoe Family will offer authentic traditional music, dance and costumes.

The show, “Generations: The Art and Culture of the Tulalip Tribes,” is co-curated by James Madison, an artist and art consultant to the Tulalip Tribes who acts as a liaison to the Tribes as a member of the Arts Council of Snohomish County and the Snohomish County Arts Commission.

Along with his own works, the show includes art by Al Charles, Bernie Gobin, Jason Gobin, Joe Gobin, Rae Anne Gobin, Tony Hatch, Pauline Joe, Richard Madison, Steve Madison, Kelly Moses, Kita Sheldon, Lance Taylor, Clyde Williams, Herman Williams, Maxine Williams and more.

“I tried to create the show for my people,” James Madison said.

“I wanted to give them an opportunity to show their art. It’s my effort to keep my culture alive.” Madison said noting that all the artists involved create different styles and types of art work and they are all evolving.

Born into a family of Coast Salish and Tlingit heritage, James Madison’s work reflects the traditional arts of his people in a contemporary context. He often describes when he first started carving at age 8.

“Me and my cousins would carve alongside our grandfather, my uncle and my father at the kitchen table,” he said.

“They, along with the work of Haida Master Bill Reid, have been the greatest influences on my art,” said Madison, who earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art in 2000 from the University of Washington.

His work can be found in many public art collections including the Tulalip Casino and Health Clinic in Marysville, the Lynnwood Convention Center, Everett’s downtown streetscape and on the Centennial Trail in downtown Arlington. He also participates in the Changing Hands Native American touring exhibit, which features contemporary art of the Northwest Coast Tribes.

Currently, Madison is working with a team of Tulalip artists, including two generations of his family members,

to carve totem poles in the Tulalip tradition for the Tribe’s new convention center, administration building, hotel and cultural museum.

In choosing artwork for “Generations: The Art and Culture of the Tulalip Tribes,” the curators sought a wide range of Northwest Coast media past and present. Keeping in mind that tradition is still an important aspect of Native American life, they set out to examine how the art of contemporary Tulalip artists is influenced by the artwork of their elders.

The exhibit showcases the evolution of this culture, from the early 20th century, when a federal experiment designed to absorb Native Americans into mainstream culture included sending all children to boarding schools and forbidding all things Indian — dress, language, artistry and beliefs. Knowledge of tribal languages, stories and art forms dwindled until they were in serious jeopardy of being lost.

Fortunately, not everyone abandoned the traditional cultural values as in James Madison’s family where carving instruction took place at the kitchen table.

In 1988 the Tulalip master carver Jerry Jones and Joe Gobin carved their first traditional canoe in more than 100 years. In the early 1990s the Tribe established the Tribal Cultural Resources Department to revive, restore, protect and enhance the traditional cultural values and spiritual beliefs of the Tulalip Tribes. Recently, Tribal leaders have approved the creation of the Tulalip Foundation to handle fundraising for a new cultural center.

The exhibit will reach out to more than 3,000 children from Snohomish County schools who will be led through the gallery by a docent, enjoy an art project and see artists in action.

The exhibit is sponsored by The Boeing Company, and cosponsored by Target, Inc., U.S. Bancorp Foundation, Verizon Foundation and the generous donations of the arts council’s H’Arts patrons.

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