Folklife and Finances Tell Nevada’s Story


His 21st century microphone and eyeglasses are the only inklings of Ralph Burn’s place in time. Without them, the Paiute elder’s image in regalia, bright and historic, could be anytime and anywhere. But it is not.

This year, the 2011 Nevada Heritage Award recipient’s image graces a very unlikely publication. It brings to life a document that is inches thick and 180 pages, but represents in small part, the state’s investment in its varied communities.

To illustrate State Controller Kim Wallin’s State of Nevada 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, jingle dancers are juxtaposed with state statistics as a creative way to blend data and art for different audiences. The report uses images from the Folklife Archives of the Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Magazine and other cultural resources.

“This is a complicated and detailed statistical description of Nevada’s finances but also an opportunity to tell a story,” Wallin said. “The state financial reports are great tools for people who are interested in how their government receives and spends their tax dollars. They include information necessary to enable the reader to gain a reasonable understanding of Nevada’s financial activities.”

With the resources of the Nevada Folklife Archives and others, the Controller’s Office included more than 20 photos that honor the vibrant displays of pow wow performances, ancient rock art petroglyphs and sepia-toned ancestral images dating back centuries and just last year. Each year, the controller’s office chooses a theme for the accompanying photographs to tell Nevada’s stories. The 2011 photos show elements of the Native American culture and western heritage Nevada has to offer.

Burns teaches his native language and oral traditions to keep them alive for a new generation. He was honored with the Nevada Heritage Award given to Nevada folk artists and tradition bearers who are the finest and most influential masters of their particular art forms and who have had a significant impact on the people and communities of the state. He is a skilled interpreter of the history and environment of Pyramid Lake and is a Vietnam veteran.

“Nevada Heritage awardees are among the state’s living cultural treasures. They embody the highest level of artistic achievement in their work and the highest levels of service in their communities and in their commitment to ensuring that their traditions stay strong,” said Patricia Atkinson, Folklife Program coordinator. “Reaching new audiences is an important part of the Nevada Arts Council. This unique partnership between the Arts Council and the State Controller helps others discover, understand, document, and support significant cultural traditions that make Nevada a great place to live, and to experience,” said the agency’s Executive Director Susan Boskoff.

The report’s photographs from the Nevada Folklife Archives were exhibited at the Reno Airport alongside a special edition of a traveling exhibition developed by the NAC Folklife Program, in collaboration with community scholars and artists representing Nevada’s tribes. What Continues the Dream: Contemporary Arts and Crafts from the Powwow Tradition is touring statewide as part of the Nevada Touring Initiative, managed by the NAC’s Artist Services Program. The traveling exhibit will be on display at the Clark County Museum in Henderson through May 6.

“In reviewing Folklife Apprenticeship Grants over the past 20 years and perusing the list of objects in the Nevada Arts Council’s Folklife Archives, we observed that many of the pieces in our collection, with the exception of baskets, have something to do with the powwow tradition,” said Rebecca Snetselaar, Folklife Program associate, featured photographer, and exhibit curator. “In Nevada’s Indian Country, people continue to make objects for sale, for use and show including buckskin shirts and moccasins, beaded regalia, dance dresses, hand drums and dance sticks. People participate in powwow, and there is a long and varied tradition of pow wow in our state. We wanted to help celebrate those traditions.”