Creating a Platform for Native People’s Art, TCMoFA Becomes Coast Salish Museum of Fine Arts

by Lynette Charters Serembe

“Settle Down” by Alison Bremner, Tribal Affiliation: Tlingit; 42″ x 38″ x 4″ Vintage plastic figurines, deer hide, fishing line

Thurston County Museum of Fine Art is reinventing itself this year as Coast Salish Museum of Fine Art. OLY ARTS spoke to Griffin Quinn (they/them) about how this came about. Quinn is Tsimshian by heritage based in Alaska and British Columbia, but Olympia is their hometown. They are a social activist and writer specializing in communications, social media, and public outreach, connecting community since 2014 in Alaska. They wrote with the organization Indigenous People’s Day Philly, and worked on the mutual aid project BIPOC Camp Kits which fundraised more than $100,000 to get good camping gear to BIPOC folks across the country. They also write speculative fiction and are a fine art photographer. They are in the process of reconnecting as an adult with their Native heritage, culture, and language, which they point out is not easily available to everyone from the diaspora of Native peoples. They are passionate about providing a platform for Native Americans.

“Piopiotahi, on the coast of New Zealand,” photo by Griffin Quinn

The show is juried by Quinn, joined by Mikaela Shafer (she/her) who is Hopi by heritage based in Arizona, she is an award-winning local artist who has exhibited up and down the East and West Coasts as well as in New York City and London, she is the recent recipient of the LIFT grant from the Native Arts and Culture Foundation, she also owns a social media agency named Maqa Collective specializing in brand storytelling, social media management and coaching.

“Salish Orcas” acrylic 12×18 giclee gallery print by Sarah Folden, tribal affiliation: Cowlitz.

Also on the jury panel is Linley B. Logan (he/him), his heritage; Logan has made the Salish Sea his home for 23 years. He is a multidisciplinary artist who has exhibited extensively throughout the US, also New Zealand, and Europe. He has received numerous grants, fellowships and artist in residences. He has consulted for numerous art organizations and art events, including National grants and Fellowship awards, notably the NEA, the Ford Foundation, National Geographic, and Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. He has served on numerous local, regional, and state art organization boards, including serving as a past Washington state arts commissioner.  These three impressive artists conclude the all-Native panel. The TCMoFA crew is facilitating the event and will prepare the space and hang the show.

Left to right: “Offerings: I forget / ʔubaliic čəd” and “Offerings: I raise my hands (to you) / ʔəsbutbutlačibid čəd,” by Epiphany Couch, tribal affiliation: Puyallup & Yakama. Vellum photoprints, glass beads, oak gall ink, and archival giclée inkjet prints on birch panel, each 12” x 12” x 1 ⅝”

It was Quinn’s idea to approach TCMoFA and suggest they do a Coast Salish show to support Indigenous People’s Day/Month. They told me TCMoFA readily embraced the idea. Because our immediate area is very Caucasian, more overt representation of the talents and genius of diverse communities, importantly including Native people in the Olympia area is needed. Creating a platform for Native people to show their art, their personalities, and their opinions, whether it is traditional, or contemporary, or both, is imperative if we are to understand each other and form bonds between communities.

“Phases” by Sarah Folden, tribal affiliation: Cowlitz; linocut block print, 16″ x 20″ serigraph

Quinn is especially interested in creating a platform to boost the confidence of newcomers to the art world who may not have as much experience in showing in exhibitions as others. They say that indigenous people deserve visibility in the community, and we all know there are barriers for breaking into the gallery circuit if no one knows who you are; this proves even more restrictive if you don’t have easy access to that community. The possibility of access to a wider community has been made available with the help and support of the TCMoFA team, which they say has been an empowering experience.

As time has proved, communities work best when we work together and the new Coast Salish Museum of Fine Arts is the ideal opportunity for Native people to connect with each other, also for all folk in general to connect with others who may not usually cross our paths and form new bonds, or indeed strengthen existing ones, enriching, and expanding our sense of who we are here in the PNW. The work in the show is of a high quality and presents life from a different perspective than that which is usually available, don’t miss this opportunity.

“Chanteskuya Wi” 3-dimensional/traditional/folkart, 10″ × 11″ by Chloe Schierbeck, tribal affiliation: Hunkpapa Lakota. Lakota style leather doll filled with sage, inspired by late 1800s/1900s Lakota peoples. This Dolls is meant to protect and bring comfort.

Coast Salish Museum of Fine Arts Exhibition

509 4th Avenue East, Olympia

Opening party: Oct 5, 7-9 p.m., exhibition hours: Fri, 6-10 p.m. Sat-Mon, noon to 6 p.m. Oct 6-9

Free admission, free snacks and music at the opening party.


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