By Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Guest review. The 7,000 square mile Cherokee Nation Reservation is a special place, full of vibrant culture and fascinating history. Through public art, we honor and value our culture and history. Public art ensures that everyone on our reservation, whether they live here or are just visiting, can find beauty and curiosity about the rich heritage of the Cherokee people.
Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses have sponsored many pieces of public art on our reservation. Most recently, we dedicated a new mural in downtown Claremore, in partnership with the City of Claremore and the Claremore Main Street program. The partnership was sparked by the efforts of local Cherokee Council member Keith Austin.
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Located on the exterior wall of Main Street Tavern, the large wall profiles distinguished the citizens of the Cherokee Nation of Claremore and Rogers County, including Cherokee Nation Chief JB Milam, United States Navy Admiral Jocko Clark, the poet Maggie Culver Fry, distance runner Andy Payne, playwright Lynn Riggs and rodeo lawyer and political leader Clem McSpadden.
We are pleased to celebrate our shared history and educate the public about the influential Cherokees who call Claremore and Rogers counties home. Each of these Cherokees left an undeniable mark on the world. Storytelling is the foundation of Cherokee art, and this mural is the perfect example of how these skills are intertwined. As the Austin Councilman said at the recent dedication ceremony, “We hope the mural will inspire the community to learn more about them so their legacy can continue to thrive for generations to come.”
The mural features the work of contemporary Cherokee Nation artist Sherri Pack. She sadly passed away last year, but we were able to digitize her mural concept and replicate it in Claremore. Much like the Cherokees honored in the mural, Sherri Pack’s talents and hard work continue to inspire us and add beauty to our lives.
In our capital, Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation is also celebrating the first outdoor art installation in the downtown cultural trail. Cherokee National Treasure Traci Rabbit is the first artist to feature on the cultural trail, and we have several large-scale reproductions of her work on temporary display.
The Culture Trail opened last year as a way to improve walking between cultural sites, while also hosting permanent and temporary exhibits of Cherokee art. Additional artwork will be added to the course over time, and we will officially dedicate the space later this summer.
Vinita is home to another Cherokee Nation public art project at the Anna Mitchell Cultural and Hospitality Center, named after the Cherokee National Treasure renowned for revitalizing traditional Cherokee pottery. The project was the vision of our First Lady, January Hoskin, who encouraged us to not only increase our investment in public art, but to make it accessible to everyone it is our reserve.
The main structure of the Anna Mitchell Cultural Center, with its high walls and designs, resembles stamped pottery created by the Cherokee people since time immemorial. Cherokee National Treasures Bill Glass and Demos Glass constructed several large-scale works of art for the site, including a seven-spire sculpture reflecting the Seven Clans of the Cherokee Nation and the Seven Sacred Directions. Cherokee Nation artist Tama Roberts constructed many of the art features located inside the center.
Art represents life in many ways, and these public art offerings demonstrate just how committed the Cherokee Nation is to the communities and people within the boundaries of our reservation. Public art, sculpture and open space installations are an important component of all Cherokee Nation spaces and properties. In accordance with Cherokee Nation law, we dedicate a percentage of the cost of all major new construction projects to the purchase and display of Cherokee art. No matter where you are in the Cherokee Nation, you will be surrounded by reminders of our interconnected lives, culture and history as Cherokee people.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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