Friday, June 26, 2015

AICCM Inaugural Art Dedication

I've previously written about the American Indian and Cultural Museum here in Oklahoma City, a museum that has seemed to be in a perpetual state of flux. I was able to tour the unfinished facility last summer with staff members and friends and this week, I was able to attend the Inaugural Art Dedication of a sculpture by Oklahoma Cherokee artists, father and son Bill Glass Jr and Demos Glass.

Final approval of the museum is still in the works, but progress is being made—as clearly evidenced by this art dedication. Attended by Native American community leaders, the dedication underscored the meaning of the AICCM to Native Americans and all Oklahomans.

Some memorable quotes from the day:

"[The AICCM] will accurately represent all 39 Indian nations in Oklahoma... Oklahomans need to know more about tribal history ... this is a place to celebrate our cultural distinctions." —Chuck Hoskin, Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff

"I don't care where you're from in the state, you've got to be excited about what's going on here... this is a place to engage, learn, celebrate and connect." — Lee Allen Smith, Project Partner

"Everything about this project employs Native values and cultures... the artwork reflects the themes and cultural elements of the museum and cultural park." — Stacey Halfmoon, Director, Community Outreach and Museum Programs

From the plaque placed at the foot of the statue:
Touch to Above (Ga lv la di tiv   A sv na s di) by Demos Glass and Bill Glass, Jr. (Cherokee)
The sculpture is a symbolic prayer to the creator who resides in a place seven zeniths high. The raised hand is intended to welcome the morning sun and what is beyond. The four-point circle within the hand expresses universal Native concepts, such as the four directions, the four seasons, and the four elements: air, water, fire, earth. It is emblematic of the interconnectedness of humanity with all of creation.
The piece was commissioned for the museum as a project of the Oklahoma Arts Council's Art in Public Places Program with the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

"The essence of public art lies in the community," said Demos Glass. This piece reflects the community of Native Americans represented on this site.

In his remarks, Bill Glass Jr. shared a story that inspired the artwork, about a Native American man who feared greeting the sunrise each morning with a raised hand, as he was taught, lest his neighbors thought he was worshiping the sun. In truth, his hand was raised in recognition of the force beyond the sun, the Great Creator. Said Glass, "this museum can represent Indian ways, to allow society to understand they aren't raising their hand to the sun, but to what is beyond—the Great Creator."

After the dedication, the speeches and the prayers, AICCM Director of Communications and Cultural Tourism Shoshana Wasserman closed the event with a reiteration of the prayers offered during the event: "... you will all go home and receive a blessing."

Taking part in the dedication was a blessing. It's a thrill to see this site fulfill the promise it holds for all the people of Oklahoma.

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