48th Annual Red Cloud Indian Art Show Features Over 200 New Works by North American Native Artists

posted June 4, 2016 

For the last 48 years, The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School has hosted one of the country’s most unique art exhibitions—a celebration of Native art actually held on Native land, on the grassy plains of the Pine Ridge Reservation. On June 5, The Heritage Center once again opened the Red Cloud Indian Art Show to visitors from the local community and from across the country. Open seven days a week until August 14, the show will feature over 200 new works by more than 80 Native artists from tribes throughout North America.

“Though the Show is nearly 50 years old, it still represents a rare opportunity to see Native art in a Native context. Historically, Native art has been taken from tribal communities and reservations and shown in museums far removed from the people it was created by,” says Mary Maxon, The Heritage Center’s director. “This show was created to do something different: to showcase the extraordinary talent of Lakota and other Native artists right here on the Pine Ridge Reservation. And we’re still committed to that idea.”

This year’s show includes a diverse group of pieces, from traditional beadwork to contemporary paintings, photographs, and mixed-media collages. Over the last several months, The Heritage Center’s curator Ashley Pourier (Oglala Lakota) has been focused on connecting with artists and tracking their submissions. As the entries have rolled in, Ashley—who is also a Red Cloud graduate—has been thrilled to see the show’s composition take shape.

“The collection of pieces that make up this year’s show captures Native art today,” says Pourier. “...works have a modern perspective of Native America today which reflect on our own identity, history or current events happening within our own communities. Art is a way to express emotions—whether it’s frustration or humor or sadness—that give a piece a voice. My hope for the art show is to provide an educational and inspiring experience for visitors not familiar with contemporary Native art.”

Honoring Native History Heritage through Contemporary Art

Each year the Red Cloud Indian Art Show draws submissions from some of the world’s most renowned Native artists. Donald Montileaux (Oglala Lakota) is one of them: his intricate and stunning works have been shown in galleries across the western half of the United States. Montileaux paints vibrant watercolors on paper, canvas and animal hides to create a contemporary form of ledger art—colorful illustrations that depict life in tribal communities.

Ledger art has its roots in the narrative paintings that the plains tribes used to illustrate events and document histories, often decorating the buffalo hides or muslin cloths used to line their tipi. After the creation of the reservation system, tribal artists began painting on the ledger paper used by government agents and military officers. Regardless of the medium, the tradition of plains narrative art has always been a mode of storytelling—and Montileaux uses his work to share the stories of his people, keeping the history alive for future generations. He says his mission is “to portray the Lakota, the Native Americans, in an honest way; to illustrate them as people who hunted buffalo, made love, raised children, cooked meals, and lived.”

Montileaux learned about the Red Cloud Indian Art Show when he was a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in the 1960’s. He entered a piece in the very first show in 1969 as a young artist at the very beginning of his career. Since then, Montileaux’s career as grown in tandem with the show. He has entered at least one piece in every show for the last 48 years and he loves the fact that the exhibit is shown in his own tribal community.

“I’ve always felt an ownership of the show itself, I think, because I’m from the reservation. It’s unique that you can go to Red Cloud’s show and see nationally-recognized artists, but also your neighbor from next door [is displaying], too.”

A new generation of Native artists has also found a home at The Heritage Center. At only 36 years old, Bryan Douglas Parker (White Mountain Apache) won the 2015 Red Cloud Indian Art Show’s prestigious Br. CM Simon S.J. Award for a piece called Tatanka’s Dream. The painting, which features a running buffalo surrounded by bold splashes of red, is featured on the poster for this year’s show. Like Montileaux, he says the Red Cloud show gave him the opportunity to share his work as he emerged as a new artist—and the confidence to keep working.

“The Red Cloud show is such a great one to be a part of, and The Heritage Center is really amazing about promoting emerging artists, giving them a chance, and inspiring and motivating them to pursue their art.”

The Red Cloud Indian Show opened on June 5 and runs until August 14, 2016. It is free and open to the public seven days a week, with free daily tours offered of the gallery as well as Red Cloud Indian School’s historic grounds. For more information, visit www.redcloudschool.org/artshow or contact The Heritage Center at 605-867-8257.


Announcing the 2016 Annual Red Cloud Indian Art Show Award Winners


Artist Interview with Bryan Douglas Parker, Winner of the 2015 Br. CM Simon, S.J. Award for his painting Tatanka's Dream


Major Grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation Support Innovative Exhibition


Photos © Red Cloud Indian School