Fireside tales and Indian art enthrall children at museum

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By Bill Michelmore -- The Buffalo News, N.Y.

LEWISTON, N.Y. (MCT) - A ''fire'' burns in the center of the art gallery. Children sit around it and hear stories of American Indian culture.

''Winter was storytelling time,'' said Joanne Weinholtz, a Tuscarora teacher. ''It will give them a sense of home.''

The fire, for safety reasons, is actually a circle of lights set amid fluttering red fabric, but the Native art is real.

Weinholtz, a culture teacher at Tuscarora Elementary School, helped coordinate an exhibition of American Indian children's book illustrations currently on display in the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University.

The exhibition is currently open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 - 5 p.m. Sunday. It runs through June 30.

Titled ''Many Winters Ago,'' the exhibition includes three dozen original artworks by artists from several Indian nations in the United States and Canada.

''It's important for our children to know about the different nations, to appreciate and continue their traditions,'' Weinholtz said.

Local artists Erwin Printup Jr. and Joseph Jacobs, both of Lewiston, are showing their works with Indian artists from Arizona, New Mexico and British Columbia.

The Niagara Falls-born Printup, a Cayuga/Tuscarora painter, has been painting pictures of his culture for 30 years and began illustrating children's books in 1994. ''Giving

Thanks,'' the book he illustrated, was a featured title on National Public Broadcasting's ''Reading Rainbow.''

Other featured artists include S.D. Nelson of Flagstaff, Ariz.; Jonathan Warm Day of Taos, N.M.; the late Michael Lacapa of Taylor, Ariz.; Ron Hall of Osoyoos, British Columbia; and George Littlechild of Comox, British Columbia.

''This project takes us beyond our region's Iroquois communities to explore the culture and artistic expressions of Native peoples from across Canada and the United States,'' said Kate Koperski, director of the Castellani Art Museum.

In addition to the works of art and the storytelling area, a puppet theater and video presentations also tell the history of Indian culture, said Marian Granfield, Castellani's education coordinator.

Storyteller Eli Rickard, a Tuscarora elder, will dramatize Jacobs' sculptures with tales of the Maid of the Mist and other Iroquois legends.

Castellani Art Museum and Tuscarora school leaders said the exhibit was made possible by the support of Tuscarora businessman Joseph Anderson, Assemblyman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, and the New York State Council on the Arts. They also credited Percy Abrams, cultural director at Anderson's Native American Museum of Art.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Buffalo News, N.Y. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.