Cherokee Carvers: Tradition Renewed
‘Cherokee Carvers’ show opens at university’s Reece Museum
By Staff Report | Friday, January 21, 2011 | Categories: Art, Johnson City
“Cherokee Carvers: Tradition Renewed” opened Tuesday at the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University and continues through March 31.
The exhibition, sponsored locally by the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU and the Reece Museum, examines different aspects of late 20th- and early 21st-century Cherokee carving.
Included are ritual objects, functional wares, and pieces designed to be sold to tourists and collectors. The exhibit features both stone and wood carvings and focuses on artists working in Western North Carolina today.
“Cherokee Carvers” was organized and curated by the Asheville Art Museum and is sponsored by Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Western Carolina University.
Artists whose works are featured in the exhibition are Davy Arch, Irma and James Bradley, Amanda Crowe, Virgil Crowe, Butch Goins, John Grant, Virgil Ledford, Pete Long, Freeman Owle, Joel Queen, James Bud Smith, Stan Tooni Jr., Stan Tooni Sr., Charlie Watty and Fred Wilnoty.
Of these, Amanda Crowe (1928-2004) was a major influence on contemporary Cherokee artists. She earned degrees from DePaul University and the Art Institute of Chicago, and later received a fellowship to study in Mexico with sculptor Jose de Creeft at Instituto Allende.
In 1953, she was employed by the Cherokee Historical Association as an instructor within the Cherokee schools, and held that position for nearly 40 years. Many of the artists in “Cherokee Carvers” studied with Crowe.
Davy Arch made such utilitarian items as spoons and dough bowls, and he used a band saw and patterns belonging to his uncle, Boyce Allison, who was once a student of Amanda Crowe, Bill Crowe and Goingback Chiltoskey. After completing high school, Arch worked at the Occonaluftee Indian Village, where he got to know a lot of the older carvers.
“When I was growing up,” he says, “everyone around here did something at home. Working with tools and wood was just a part of everyday life. Now when I teach carving, I find I have to teach wood lore and tool use before I teach carving.”
As part of the exhibition, an artist’s talk and demonstration will be given Feb. 17 at 5:30 p.m. by Freeman Owle, who will discuss Cherokee art and culture.
Freeman, who grew up in the Birdtown community of Swain County, N.C., naturally learned to carve wood at an early age, since, as he says, “Every young man had a knife in his pocket from the age of seven.”
Well-known in the Cherokee community, Owle serves on the board of directors of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and is a coordinator for the Cherokee Heritage Trails project of the Blue Ridge Heritage Initiative.
He is one of the featured storytellers in the book, “Living Stories of the Cherokee,” and he also appears in the video documentary, “Cherokee: The Principal People,” which aired on public television in North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky.
The exhibit and artist talk/demonstration are free and open to the public.
Regular museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Three special parking spaces at the east end of the Reece Museum are designated for patrons of the museum and the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, a Tennessee Center of Excellence of which the museum is a division.
To receive a temporary permit to park in these spaces, patrons should visit the ETSU Parking Office, 908 W. Maple St., or call 439-5636 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more information or special assistance for those with disabilities, call 439-4392.