Building a Collection—New Acquisitions at The Heritage Center

October 30, 2017


For those who love Native art, discovering The Heritage Center is like discovering a hidden gem. Located in the rolling hills of the Pine Ridge Reservation on Red Cloud’s historic campus—more than 100 miles from any major urban center—The Heritage Center holds one of the country’s largest and most diverse collections of historic and contemporary Native American art. Now at nearly 10,000 pieces, the permanent collection continues to grow year by year. And curator and Red Cloud graduate Ashley Pourier cherishes the responsibility of selecting which pieces will become The Heritage Center’s newest additions. 

Honoring Native artists who are working today—and creating opportunities for their evolving work to be seen by new audiences—is a major part of The Heritage Center’s mission. So when Ashley is selecting new pieces, she focuses on some key criteria: finding new work by emerging or prominent contemporary Native artists who are not yet represented in the collection or finding work that reflects the creative development of those artists who are already part of the collection. Ultimately her goal is to grow the collection in a way that demonstrates not only the extraordinary talent of Native artists—but also the extraordinary diversity of their experience and perspective. 

“When I am selecting new pieces for the permanent collection, there are many things running through my mind, from filling gaps in the kinds of art and artists represented in the collection, to thinking through how a new piece might fit in future exhibits or lesson plans for classes,” said Ashley. “But no matter what, we want the collection to reflect that Native Art isn’t one form, and it certainly isn’t rooted in the past—it’s constantly evolving to reflect today’s Native artists.”

We’re thrilled to share some of The Heritage Center’s newest additions to the permanent collection. Here, Ashley describes how and why they were selected:



Bobby C. Martin “The Road Back Home,” SWAIA-Santa Fe Indian Art Market, 2017

“When we ran into Bobby Martin (Creek), an artist, educator, and curator from Oklahoma, during the 2017 Santa Fe Indian Art Market. I knew his name sounded familiar to me, and then it clicked—we already have a few pieces by Bobby in the collection already, including serigraphs, or prints, from all the way back in 1994. What caught my eye in Bobby’s booth were his encaustic pieces. Encaustic paintings or hot wax paintings use heated wax with pigment to paint, as opposed to more traditional acrylic or oil paint. We only have one other one other encaustic in the collection, and nothing like this from Bobby—who integrates beautiful old photographs, many of his own family and ancestors, into his work. And I knew Audrey Jacobs, our museum educator, would love another encaustic to share with our students. So I asked Bobby to tell me the story of this piece—and it just grabbed me.”



James Star Comes Out “Buffalo Doll,” Northern Plains Indian Art Market, 2015

“Our team at The Heritage Center has had many wonderful opportunities working with James on The Horse Nation of the Oceti Sakowin exhibit. James works in the revitalization of horse regalia among the Oceti Sakowin; his creative process is to research and reflect on historic items that are no longer being produced. He does a lot of research using online databases and archives and also travels to visit collections when he gets the time and funds. This year was the first year he started making his own buffalo dolls, after finding historic buffalo dolls in a few different collections across the country. We did not have a buffalo doll or a piece from James in the collection—but we do now and I hope to collect more in the future.”



Tasha Abourezk, “My Heroes Have Always Been Indians” Native POP 2017

“I volunteer at the Native POP Art Market to help with art Intake and installing for the Awards Reception the Friday before the actual market. It’s a fun, fast-paced and crazy day, but at the same time, I get a little sneak preview of the market and all the artist’s best work. There was a lot of amazing work coming through overall; it’s when you start to hang artwork that certain pieces begin to stand out. When you’re trying to figure out where to hang a full-size quilt with limited wall space, that holds your interest. Tasha was one of my “must see” artists during market. Of course, her larger quilts were already spoken for, but I wanted something from her in the collection. 

I like to collect pieces that reflect events that have happened in our community, the Great Plains area, and particularly on events that have had a direct effect on us as Native people. Tasha, like a lot of others, couldn’t be at Standing Rock, but she showed her support by responding to the protests with such an empowering piece and a title to match. The added bonus of it being a quilted textile piece is very nice too.”



Aloysius Dreaming Bear, “Anpo Wicahpi (Morning Star)”, The Heritage Center Gift Shop, 2016“

Aloysius sells gorgeous dentalium earrings and parfleche items to the Gift Shop once in a while. His work is always stunning! He is young, local, and reinventing the art form—bringing it into this time while also respecting the history of this art form. Another purpose of The Center’s collection is to serve as a record of trends and aesthetic shifts in local communities—and this piece is a reflection of the constant evolution of Native art.”


Photos © Red Cloud Indian School/Willi White


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