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News Release

Museum of the Cherokee Indian

Asheville Art Museum

A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art features over 50 works of art in a variety of media by 30+ Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Cherokee Nation artists. The exhibition highlights the use of the written Cherokee language, a syllabary developed by Cherokee innovator Sequoyah (circa 1776–1843). Cherokee syllabary is frequently found in the work of Cherokee artists as a compositional element or the subject matter of the work itself. The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina from June 12, 2021 to October 31, 2021, and in the Asheville Art Museum’s Appleby Foundation Exhibition Hall from November 18, 2021 to March 14, 2022.

Pictured: "Ul'nigid," Rhiannon Skye Tafoya.

Pictured: "Ul'nigid," Rhiannon Skye Tafoya.

The Cherokee Syllabary is a system of writing developed by Sequoyah in the early 1800s prior to the Removal period. Through Sequoyah’s innovative work, Cherokee people embraced the writing system as an expedient form of communication and documentation. During the Removal period, the syllabary was used as a tactic to combat land dispossession. Cherokee people continue to use the syllabary as a form of cultural expression and pride, which is showcased in the contemporary artwork of the Cherokee Citizens in this exhibition.

“We are pleased to host this gathering of works from contemporary Cherokee artists, who perfectly illustrate how our language is a living and evolving part of who we are. It is moving to see how each artist finds inspiration in their own way from this language that connects us as Cherokee people,” said Shana Bushyhead Condill, executive director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

“The Asheville Art Museum and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian have been long term collaborators, and we are delighted to further our partnership by working together to manage an open call to Cherokee artists and subsequently curate this exciting exhibition of contemporary works that take inspiration from, celebrate, preserve and interpret the syllabary,” said Pamela L. Myers, executive director of the Asheville Art Museum. “On view at both museums, we hope the exhibition engages a wide and diverse audience in dialogue with these extraordinary works.”

Pictured: A bag by textile artist Kenny Glass.

Pictured: A bag by Kenny Glass.

A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art is organized by the Asheville Art Museum and Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and curated by Joshua Adams, EBCI artist and independent curator, and Hilary Schroeder, assistant curator at the Asheville Art Museum. This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership, and sponsored in part by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and Kevin Click and April Liou in memory of Myron E. Click.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artists include Joshua Adams, Jody Lipscomb Bradley, Nathan Bush, Kane Crowe, John Henry Gloyne, Shan Goshorn, Luzene Hill, Christy Long, Louise Bigmeat Maney, Christopher McCoy, Tara McCoy, Joel Queen, Sean Ross, Jakeli Swimmer, Rhiannon Skye Tafoya, Mary Thompson, Stan Tooni Jr., Alica Wildcatt, and Fred Wilnoty.

Cherokee Nation artists include Roy Boney Jr., Jeff Edwards, Joseph Erb, Raychel Foster, Kenny Glass, Camilla McGinty, Jessica Mehta, America Meredith, Jane Osti, Lisa Rutherford, Janet L. Smith, Jennifer Thiessen, and Jennie Wilson.

Pictured: "Tsalagiopoly," Jeff Edwards.

Pictured: "Tsalagiopoly," Jeff Edwards.

About the Museum of the Cherokee Indian

Established in 1948, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian is one of the longest operating tribal museums. Recognized for its innovative storytelling, the Museum features exhibits, artwork, and hands-on technology that brings over 15,000 years of Cherokee history to life. Located in Cherokee, NC, the Museum is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Learn more by visiting

About the Asheville Art Museum

The Museum’s galleries, the Museum Store, and Perspective Café are open with limited capacity. Art PLAYce, our intergenerational makerspace, and the Frances Mulhall Achilles Art Research Library remain temporarily closed. The Museum welcomes visitors Wednesday through Monday from 11am to 6pm, with late-night Thursdays from 11am to 9pm. The Museum is closed on Tuesdays. General admission is always free for Museum Members, UNC Asheville students, active-duty military personnel with valid ID, and children under 6; $15 per adult; $13 per senior (65+); and $10 per student (child 6–17 or degree-seeking college students with valid ID). Admission tickets are available at . Visitors may become Members at the welcome desk during their visit or online at

Established by artists and incorporated in 1948, the Asheville Art Museum is committed to being a vital force in community and individual development and to providing lifelong opportunities for education and enrichment through the visual arts. The Museum’s mission is to engage, enlighten, and inspire individuals and enrich community through dynamic experiences in American art of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Museum is dedicated to advancing diversity, equity, access, and inclusion — now and in the future — and we welcome all visitors without discrimination. The Museum acknowledges that it is situated upon the ancient, southern Appalachian ancestral homeland of the Cherokee Tribe and that this region is still the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians today. The Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Learn more by visiting

Asheville Art Museum + Museum of the Cherokee Indian - logos

This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership.

Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership

This project is sponsored in part by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

Cherokee Preservation Foundation - logo

This project is also sponsored by Kevin Click and April Liou in memory of Myron E. Click.

Related coverage:

Cherokee Nation debuts two-part exhibit on Cherokee language evolution