A $10,000 Humanities New York Action grant will be used to present the work of a globally known Onondaga Nation ceramic artist to expand awareness of the Haudenosaunee people and culture through a new art exhibition at the Syracuse University Art Museum and student and faculty teaching and community outreach.
The grant has been awarded to the project’s co-directors, College of Arts and Sciences faculty member Sascha Scott, associate professor and director of the art history graduate studies program, and Scott Manning Stevens (citizen of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation), associate professor of English and director of the Native American Studies program. They will coordinate with Emily Dittman, interim director of the Syracuse University Art Museum and instructor of museum studies in the School of Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom are of Indigenous heritage, have played a central role in the research, design and curation of the exhibition. The student research team includes Eiza Capton (member of the Cayuga Nation, B.F.A. in illustration); Charlotte Dupree (citizen of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation; B.A. in art history); Anthony V. Ornelaz (citizen of the Diné Nation, M.F.A. in creative writing); Jaden N. Dagenais (M.A. in art history; M.S. in library and information science); and Ana Borja Armas (Quechua, Ph.D. in the cultural foundation of education). The research team is also developing an exhibition catalog and is working with Jones on an oral history project.
Humanities New York’s mission is to strengthen civil society and the bonds of community by using the humanities to foster engaged inquiry and dialogue around social and cultural concerns. The organization’s action grants offer funding to implement humanities projects that encourage public audiences to reflect on values, explore new ideas and engage with others in their community.
Jones has ceramic works in museums nationwide, including the National Museum of the American Indian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was among the first class of students at the Institute of American Indian Art. In subsequent decades he has been instrumental in reviving historical styles and techniques of Haudenosaunee pottery making. He has also developed a form of figurative pottery that highlights Haudenosaunee history and culture and that represents indigenous dispossession, oppression, genocide, resistance and resilience.
According to Scott and Stevens, the project aims to provide a template for future student- and community-engaged exhibitions of contemporary Haudenosaunee art at the University. A second goal is to draw more Indigenous students to humanistic work and museum professions and illustrate how those professions can serve Native communities and inspire and enact social change. “Our Indigenous student-curators have seen their cultures and histories either misrepresented or not represented at all in school curricula and museums. These students are learning more about Haudenosaunee art and culture, sharing their perspectives with the research team, which is also comprised of non-Indigenous students, and guiding how Indigenous art, history and culture is represented on campus and shared with the local community,” says Scott.
The project also involves several community educational components. The museum will host public lectures by scholars and contemporary artists and a workshop for University faculty to illustrate how they can incorporate the exhibit into their courses. In addition to working with faculty, the curator of education and academic outreach Kate Holohan will also conduct a community outreach day. Wider community outreach efforts will include student researcher visits to local grade school classrooms.
Scott and Stevens will also co-teach a cross-listed course for undergraduate and graduate students in spring 2023, “Indigenizing Museums.” It focuses on the history, critique and interventions of museum practices related to the collection, stewardship and display of Indigenous visual and material culture. One unit of the course will focus on Jones’s work and the museum’s exhibition.
“The Syracuse University Art Museum is a wonderful setting for hosting this exciting exhibition and for bringing about the important awareness, outreach and educational activities associated with this project,” says Marcelle Haddix, associate provost for strategic initiatives. “We look forward to showcasing Haudenosaunee culture, art and history through this exhibition and to cultivating the important dialogues and understandings these events will help generate. We appreciate the funding that Humanities New York has provided for this worthwhile project.”