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News Release

Forge Project

Forge Project, a Native-led art, culture, and decolonial education initiative on the unceded homelands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok in Upstate New York, is pleased to announce the six winners of the 2022 Forge Fellowship: Catherine Blackburn, Dene; Laura Ortman, White Mountain Apache; Rainer Posselt, Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans; Sara Siestreem, Hanis Coos of The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians; Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation; and Ilgavak, Peter Williams, Yup'ik.

“As we move into the second year of our Forge Fellowship, we’re thrilled to honor this incredible group of changemakers, whose practices champion those aims central to our mission at Forge,” said Forge Project Executive Director Candice Hopkins, Carcross/Tagish First Nation. “This year’s Fellows represent the breadth and complexity of contemporary Native artistic practices, activism, and culture bearing.”

Forge Project’s 2022 cohort of six Indigenous individuals represents a broad diversity of cultural practices, participatory research, organizing models, and geographic contexts that honor Indigenous pasts as well as build Native futures. Each Forge Project Fellow will receive a total of $25,000 toward their practice and will have full access to the Forge Project site, libraries, and collection of contemporary art by Indigenous artists during a three-week fellowship at Forge. Fellows will have the opportunity to present their work at on-site events, as well as online via social media and live-streamed programs.

The Forge campus consists of two structures designed by the artist and activist Ai Weiwei, in collaboration with HHF architects. The Tsai Residence, where Forge Project hosts its public programming, including special-topic talks with Fellows, is the larger of the two buildings. Parallel to the Tsai residence is a Y-shaped building housing a fluid living and studio space for Forge Fellows.

This year’s Fellows are a widely accomplished group working in a range of fields:

  • Catherine Blackburn is an artist and jeweler, who uses personal narrative to speak back to colonial histories.
  • Laura Ortman is an experimental musician and vocalist working with everything from the electric guitar and piano to the Apache violin.
  • Public and mental health worker Rainer Posselt, whose background in youth work and food-sovereignty initiatives inform explorations of historical trauma.
  • The artistic and pedagogical visions of multi-disciplinary artist Sara Siestreem who combines painting, photography, printmaking, weaving, and large-scale installation with work in education and institutional reform.
  • Tania Willard’s notions of the contemporary and traditional as applied to Indigenous art, probing intersections between Indigenous practices and land-based pedagogies.
  • Culture bearer, artist, designer, and filmmaker Ilgavak, Peter Williams, whose hand-sewn works repurpose hide and skin from self-harvested traditional foods, bridging worlds of Indigenous art, fashion, and subsistence.

The Forge Project Fellowship 2022 applications were reviewed by a juried panel of six distinguished Native scholars, artists, writers, and former Fellows: Misty Cook, Sky Hopinka, Dr. Rose Miron, Dr. Jolene Rickard, Dr. Miranda Roberts, and Dr. Anton Treuer.

Forge Project's annual fellowship launched in 2021 with a cohort of four individuals selected by Heather Bruegl, Oneida/Stockbridge-Munsee. The inaugural Forge Project Fellows were architect Chris T Cornelius, Oneida, multidisciplinary artist Sky Hopinka Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, ecologist and researcher Jasmine Neosh, Menominee, and Mohican language preservation activist and teacher Brock Schreiber, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans.

Pictured: Forge Project Fellowship winners (clockwise, from top left): Catherine Blackburn, Dene; Laura Ortman, White Mountain Apache; Rainer Posselt, Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans; Ilgavak, Peter Williams, Yup'ik; Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation; and Sara Siestreem, Hanis Coos.

Pictured: Forge Project Fellowship winners (clockwise, from top left): Catherine Blackburn, Dene; Laura Ortman, White Mountain Apache; Rainer Posselt, Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans; Ilgavak, Peter Williams, Yup'ik; Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation; and Sara Siestreem, Hanis Coos.

About the Fellows

Catherine Blackburn was born in Patuanak, Saskatchewan, of Dene and European ancestry and is a member of the English River First Nation. She is a multidisciplinary artist and jeweler, whose common themes address Canada's colonial past that are often prompted by personal narratives. Inspired by her late Setsuné’s (grandmother) incredible talent of garment making, hide-tanning, and adornment, her work grounds itself in the Indigenous feminine and is bound through the ancestral love that stitching suggests. Through stitchwork, she honors her cultural history, using these techniques and materials as “storiers” while challenging perspectives of contemporary Indigenous experience. 

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Laura Ortman, White Mountain Apache, creates across multiple platforms, including recorded albums, live performances, and filmic and artistic soundtracks. An inquisitive and exquisite violinist, Ortman is versed in Apache violin, piano, electric guitar, keyboards, and amplified violin, often sings through a megaphone, and is a producer of capacious field recordings. She has performed at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, The Stone residency, The New Museum, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, The Toronto Biennial, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, among countless established and DIY venues in the US, Canada, and Europe. In 2008, Ortman founded the Coast Orchestra, an all-Native American orchestral ensemble that performed a live soundtrack to Edward Curtis’s film In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914), the first silent feature film to star an all-Native American cast. Ortman is the recipient of the 2020 Jerome@Camargo Residency in Cassis, France, 2017 Jerome Foundation Composer and Sound Artist Fellowship, 2016 Art Matters Grant, 2016 Native Arts and Culture Foundation Fellowship, 2015 IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Social Engagement Residency, 2014-15 Rauschenberg Residency, and 2010 Artist-in-Residence at Issue Project Room. She was also a participating artist in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Ortman lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Rainer Posselt, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, has worked with Native youth, food-sovereignty initiatives, and currently works in public and mental health, including conducting various community needs assessments for the Menominee tribal epidemiology department and for the urban Indian community in Milwaukee. He designs and administers surveys, conducts focus groups, and examines epidemiological data to identify current mental health services needs for Native people in Milwaukee. Posselt's Master’s thesis will examine how historic trauma has affected the attachment patterns of Native American adults. This theoretical relationship has never been quantitatively examined with regards to Native American historical trauma. His study aims to elucidate some of the relationships between historical trauma and how it is transmitted by demonstrating that a high burden of historical trauma cognitions and related symptoms result in the development of anxiety or avoidant attachment within members of Indigenous communities.

Sara Siestreem, Hanis Coos, is a multi-disciplinary artist from the South Coast of Oregon, whose practice includes painting, photography, printmaking, weaving, and large-scale installation. Her work also branches into education and institutional reform. Siestreem created a weaving program for the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw people and teaches collegiate studio arts and theory at PNCA and MFA program at the Institute for American Indian Art.

Her work has been exhibited at Museum of Northwest Art, Missoula Art Museum, Hallie Ford Museum, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, The Whatcom Museum of Arts, The University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, The Evergreen Longhouse, Spaceworks Gallery, Crossroads Carnegie Arts Center and many others. Her work figures in public and private collections internationally.

Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation and settler heritage, works within the shifting ideas around contemporary and traditional as it relates to Indigenous art, often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Indigenous and other cultures. Willard has worked as an artist in residence with Gallery Gachet in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Banff Centre's visual arts residencies, fiction and Trading Post, and as a curator in residence with grunt gallery and Kamloops Art Gallery. Willard’s curatorial work includes Beat Nation: Art Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture (2012-2014), co-curated with Kathleen Ritter, Vancouver Art Gallery (and national tour), featuring 27 contemporary Indigenous artists. Most recently she was one of a team of co-curators for Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM (2021). In 2016 Willard received the Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art from the Hanatyshyn Foundation as well as a City of Vancouver Book Award for the catalogue for the exhibition, Unceded Territories: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Willard's ongoing collaborative project BUSH gallery, is a conceptual land-based gallery grounded in Indigenous knowledges and relational art practices. Willard is an Assistant Professor at University of British Columbia Okanagan in Syilx territories (Kelowna, BC).

Ilgavak, Peter Williams, Yup’ik is a culture bearer, artist, designer, filmmaker, and educator based in Sheet'ká (Sitka), Alaska. His hand-sewn works repurpose skin from self-harvested traditional foods, bridging worlds of Indigenous art, fashion, and subsistence. Williams completed artist residencies at Santa Fe Art Institute and Institute of American Indian Arts, and has guest lectured and/or taught skin sewing at Yale University, Stanford University, UCLA, Portland Art Museum, and Alaska State Museum, among others. His art has been shown at museums and galleries across North America. His presentations at New York Fashion Week and Fashion Week Brooklyn in 2015 and 2016 led to profiles in The Guardian and The New York Times. He produced the documentary Harvest:Quyurciq, which received a Native Peoples Action project grant. In 2018-2020 Williams became a Cultural Capital Fellow, a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow, and received an Individual Artist Award Project Grant from Rasmuson Foundation. In 2021 he received an NDN Collective Radical Imagination Grant and, in 2022, United States Artists Fellowship. Williams’s professional and personal work is increasingly focused on climate change and its disproportionate effects on Indigenous peoples. 

About the Jury

Misty Cook, Stockbridge-Munsee, M.S. is the author of Medicine Generations: National Native American Medicines Traditional to the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans Tribe and a cultural consultant.

Sky Hopinka, Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, is a multidisciplinary artist who has studied and taught chinuk wawa, a language indigenous to the Lower Columbia River Basin. Among many other honors, he has received a Sundance Art of Nonfiction Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was an inaugural Forge Project Fellow.

Dr. Rose Miron is the Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library and Affiliate Faculty in the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at Northwestern University. She holds a BA in History and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Jolene Rickard, Tuscarora Nation, is an artist and academic. She is a recipient of a Ford Foundation Research Grant and is conducting research in the Americas, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia that will culminate in a new journal on Indigenous aesthetics, and is currently the director of Cornell’s American Indian & Indigenous Studies Program.

Dr. Meranda Roberts, Yerington Paiute Tribe, earned her PhD from the University of California, Riverside and has worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Field Museum of Natural History, and is now the Education Manager at the Museum of Us in San Diego, California.

Dr. Anton Treuer, White Earth/Leech Lake Ojibwe, is Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and author of 19 books. He has a B.A. from Princeton University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and is editor of the Oshkaabewis Native Journal, the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language.

About Forge Project

Forge Project is a Native-led initiative centered on decolonial education, Indigenous art, and supporting leaders in culture, food security, and land justice. Located on the unceded homelands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok in Upstate New York, Forge Project works to upend political and social systems formed through generations of settler colonialism.

Launched in 2021, Forge Project serves the social and cultural landscape of shared communities through a funded fellowship program, public education and events, a lending art collection focused on living Indigenous artists, and a teaching farm developed in partnership with Sky High Farm.

Candice Hopkins, Citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation, serves as Forge Project’s executive director and chief curator. Forge Project was co-founded by Becky Gochman and Zach Feuer.

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