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Eye on the Arts Column

Eye on the Arts

Subject: Native American art next show at Bandon Hospital  (Eye on the Arts Column)

“EYE ON THE ARTS ” column.  Bandon Western World. November 2008

Deer Ridge.  Snake River.  Powder River. Two Rivers.  Columbia River.  Coffee Creek.  Shutter Creek.

If you’re lucky enough not to have had a brush with Oregon’s prison system, you might not know that these are all the names of prisons around the state. There are currently three million men and women incarcerated in the United States, more than in any other prison system in the world.  Many of these are  Native Americans, unfortunately more than twice as many as their percentage in the overall population would suggest.  Because of the sad history of these peoples, which is only now beginning to be addressed in a compassionate way, it isn’t uncommon to have three generations of Native Americans from one family all in the prisons of Oregon.  And not just men.  Women too.  Between l977 and 2004, the rates at which we incarcerate women has increased by 700%.  These people are warehoused; in Oregon almost nothing is done to rehabilitate them.  We lock the door and throw away the keys.  And when they do get out, if they do, they can’t find jobs and they can’t find places to live.  30% of them go back in again.

In Oregon there is now an organization that is trying to do something about it, at least for the Native Americans in the system.  It is called RED LODGE TRANSITION SERVICES and they have come up with a way to make these invisible people visible.  Through their art.

“NATIVE AMERICAN ART EMPOWERS “INVISIBLE PEOPLE”.  That’s the name of the exhibit now traveling around the state which is coming to Bandon in December.

Save the date of Sunday, December 7th for an afternoon of drumming, dancing, storytelling, and art by Native Americans at the Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center here in Bandon from 1-3 p.m.  My old friends Barry and Bonnie Joyce,who have been conducting sweat lodge ceremonies out at their place on Lampa  Mountain Road for over 25 years, are bringing us an extraordinary show of works done by  over 50 Native American artists currently incarcerated in  the 14 facilities of Oregon’ prison systems.  These men and women have all donated their art, which has been handsomely framed by framers all over the state, to raise money for  RED LODGE TRANSITION  SERVICES, a non-profit organization that helps men and women transition from life in prison to successful life back in our communities.

There is some amazing art work here.  I went up to Eugene on November 8th to see the show (it is traveling around the state; it is currently in Eugene and will be in Portland this Spring; thanks to Barry and Bonnie we get to have it here in December and January) and was  really impressed with what these men and women have been able to create with the simplest materials: colored pencils, regular black pencils, small sheets of paper, ball point pens.  I also got to meet Trish Jordan, director of the program,  a lady with a twinkle in her eye and a quiet manner who has come from Idaho and in the last two years has managed to travel all around the state, mobilizing rehabilitation programs , sweat ceremonies inside the prisons, counseling programs for Native  American prisoners, and this series of art shows and special programs to make all of us  aware of these forgotten people.  Her current goal is to raise enough money to buy a transition house up in the Portland area so that Native American women, when they are let out of prison, will have somewhere to go.

Trish figures it will take about $50,000 to make a down payment on a house.  Right now, through sales of original art, prints, and cards, they’ve raised $7200.  At the show in Bandon they will have brand-new calendars for 2009 featuring twelve of the finest works donated by the artists.  There will also be works by Native American artists not in the prison system, including Kaila Farrell-Smith, whose father , Al Smith, now in his 80’s, is the eldest of the Native American Elders in the state.  Kaila received scholarships to study art in Italy, and currently is a professional artist in the Portland area.  It will be a beautiful show, and Sunday the 7th will be a memorable event.  Barry tells me he is bringing “the big drum” and a whole contingent of Native American drummers.  Who knows, maybe we’ll even cook up some fry bread!

Hope to see you on the 7th

Victoria Tierney (Tierney is an artist and arts advocate in Bandon)