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Must See: NMAI in New York's 'We Are Here! The Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship' Exhibit

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Contemporary works of five outstanding Native artists will be on the spotlight at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York, from Saturday, June 2, through Sunday, September 23.

The exhibit, “We Are Here! The Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship,” is made possible by the museum’s collaboration with Indianapolis-based Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

“We are always appealing to a broader audience,” said Kathleen Ash-Milby, associate curator. She said this is the first time the Fellowship exhibition from the Eiteljorg is traveling to the George Gustav Heye Center New York Museum.

“This specific exhibition provides excellent opportunity to highlight the works of Native artists in new media,” she said, noting that three out of the five artists are working in new media.

“I have focused on creating projects destined for the Internet, which I consider to be an extraordinary art-delivery system,” said Skawennati, Mohawk, one of the Native artists.

“Using cyberspace as both a tool and a material allows me to (relatively) inexpensively make my work accessible to people around the world. The work reaches them in a (relatively) private space, on a screen that is usually at a friendly scale,” she added.

Skawennati’s “TimeTraveler,” at, features 10 episodes following a 22nd-century Mohawk man and his experience of different historical conflicts.

Along with Skawennati, the artists to be featured are Bonnie Devine, Ojibwa; Duane Slick, Meskwaki/Ho-Chunk; Anna Tsouhlarakis, Navajo, Creek, Greek; and invited artist Alan Michelson, Mohawk. They were all recognized in 2011 by Eiteljorg as the best and most relevant Native artists.

The Fellowship is a biennial program, developed by Eiteljorg museum in consultation with its board and Native American Council. The fellowship culminates in an exhibition that honors the artists. Each fellow received an unrestricted $25,000 honorarium to facilitate their continued growth as creative artists.

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The Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship has opened the nominations for the best artists for 2013. Since it started the program, the museum has given more than $1 million to contemporary artists.

“It is really interesting. We’ve worked with several of the artists before on an individual basis or on group shows. We are always happy to get the works of artists out there,” said Quinn Bradley, Public Affairs Associate of the National Museum of the American Indian, located across New York City’s Battery Park.

A familiar face in the Museum is Michelson, a New York-based installation artist who addresses the intersection of American landscape, history and memory in his work. His “Frontier Land: Home in the Woods” (2011) comprises small log cabins created out of paper, some printed with significant text.

Devine, artist, curator, writer and educator based in Toronto, Ontario, focuses on the connections to the land and history of her forbearers, the Anishnaabek of the Canadian Shield. Her thesis on the history and effects of uranium mining in the region, which destroyed traditional traplines and left hills of yellow sulphuric acid, grew into several projects, including “Canoe” (2003).

“My work takes the forms of painting and artist books and is based in my identity as a first-generation urban Indian male navigating and meditating with the context of a market-driven art world,” said Slick. His white-on-white paintings of multiple cast shadows include “Shadow Portrait in Twilight” (2007).

“I am interested in challenging and stretching the boundaries of aesthetic and conceptual expectations. The focus of my work is to create and uncover new truths,” said Tsouhlarakis, whose works are in sculpture, installation and video. Her “Intervals of Pretense” (2011) is a 36-channel digital video.

Preparations for the opening of the exhibit are already under way. Quinn said that on May 31 there is a moderated panel discussion with the artists. The event is open to the public.

“Part of the mission of the museum is supporting the Native voice in the arts and contemporary issues,” she said, adding that there is one gallery devoted in the museum for contemporary art.

Due to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian’s location in Lower Manhattan, Quinn said she expects New Yorkers and foreign tourists among the visitors to the exhibit.

The Museum welcomes 300,000 visitors a year. About 57% live in the U.S. The rest are mostly foreign tourists coming predominantly from Europe, Asia and South America. Quinn said the Museum also serves 40,000 students a year.