Banks artist sets record straight with new exhibit
Creator, curator and critic Stephanie Littlebird Fogel is bringing an insiders perspective to the Washington County Museum's most popular exhibit.
The museum's formerly titled exhibit "This Kalapuya Land" was installed nearly 15 years ago and was in much need of updating. Fogel, who is Kalapuyan herself, worked with the museum to overhaul the exhibit, now titled "This IS Kalapuyan Land," correcting and sometimes re-writing whole sections to present a narrative closer to the historical record, Fogel said. The new exhibit is more reflective of indigenous and non-indigenous experiences in the area, Fogel said.
"That's something I had noticed throughout my life," said Fogel, who was born and raised in Banks. "In books and elsewhere, any representation of indigenous history usually has some sort of slant to it when it is being recalled by an outsider."
The museum has preserved Native artifacts for decades, but museum officials say it has too-often discussed Native people's in the past-tense.
"The vibrant presence of today's Native people has not been given enough space at this museum," said co-directors Molly Alloy and Nathanael Andreini. "That's unacceptable for a place that teaches others about this area's history and culture. Native perspectives are essential, informed, complex and numerous."
The previous exhibit was created in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, but Alloy said the exhibit was a product of its time.
The newly re-vamped "This IS Kalapuyan Land" exhibit makes the Native perspective even more visibile, Alloy said.
The exhibit opens Thursday, Aug. 15, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at Washington County Museum, based at Portland Community College's Rock Creek cam-
pus, 17677 N.W. Springville Road.
Fogel is a practicing artist and writer who has worked across the Portland area. She focuses on producing unique style of totems, special projects, and supporting other artists through her writing.
"I am dedicated to the idea of uplifting other artists whether they be indigenous or not," Fogel said. "We're all just out here trying to scrape it together and make it."
Fogel previously worked with Alloy on the Oregon Bee Project — a cooperative effort between the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon State University's Extension Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry to maintain and enhance bee health in Oregon. Fogel caught Alloy's eye and they became fast friends, she said.
The two wanted to work together again, and Alloy thought Fogel would be perfect to tackle the Kalapuyan exhibit.
"Molly told the museum that she knew a Kalapuyan artist who lived in Washington County (her) entire life," Fogel said "So I really just strangely fit this exact exhibit."
Fogel worked on the exhibit alongside David Lewis, a professor of anthropology and Native studies at Oregon State University. The pair strived to include as many voices from the Native community as possible to accurately represent the Kalapuyan experience, Fogel said.
"When you are talking about marginalized communities, I think that it is super-important that you get in touch with people from within that community, and more than one if possible," Fogel said. "Especially projects like this, which represent an entire culture."
Fogel said exhibits like "This IS Kalapuyan Land" are badly needed.
"Most people have no idea," Fogel said. "There are over 50,000 Native people in Oregon, but most people wouldn't know it by the way Oregon remembers history."
Among other things, the new exhibit illustrates the erasure of Native culture in Oregon, Fogel said.
"Ultimately, I want to challenge the way we recall our shared histories and examine how biased narratives can be perpetuated through archeology and academic institutions like museums and universities," Fogel said.
Fogel's next project, funded through the Regional Arts & Culture Council, will involve indigenous women and printmaking.
"We will be creating a fine art print portfolio with about 15 different women's work, to be assembled into a portfolio that can then be sold to galleries," she said. "The idea behind the project will be developing and increasing underrepresented indigenous voices within the art institute."
Fogel said the project will help get Native female artists lecture time and opportunities to speak, as well as give them access to work with students at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
"We are trying to provide something we didn't have: Native people in the academic environment," she said. "Hopefully it will enrich both the artist's and the students' lives while working together."
IF YOU GO
What: "This IS Kalapuyan Land" exhibit
Where: Washington County Museum, 17677 N.W. Springville Road
When: Reception 6-9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15. Museum hours, noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
More info: washingtoncountymuseum.org
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