PETOSKEY — Petoskey’s Crooked Tree Arts Center recently unveiled a new exhibit revolving around the artwork, history and stories of the local Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
The exhibit — titled ““Kindred: Traditional Arts of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians” — opened Monday, Sept. 20 at the arts center and features both historic and contemporary examples of Odawa arts and crafts in both of the arts center’s upper galleries.
“This has been a long time coming,” said visual arts director Liz Erlewine. “In some of my early months working for the arts center, I was invited to see a private collection of quill boxes and other Odawa artworks and it was the first time I had been made aware of what something like a quill box was.”
Erlewine was motivated by the collection and started down a path that ultimately led to the current exhibit at the arts center.
“I thought that you could really use an exhibit as an opportunity to look at the history, challenges the Odawa people have faced over centuries, the artistry and of course the traditions and our obligations to those traditions to keep them alive,” said Erlewine.
Co-curated by Erlewine and Little Traverse Bay Bands director of repatriation, archives and records Eric Heminway, the exhibit features quill boxes, beadwork, regalia, basketry and ceramics and will take a look at the economic drivers, environmental factors, and challenges inherent in sustaining tradition, creative practice, and identity in the 21st century.
Erlewine explained that Heminway was instrumental in putting together the exhibit and that he felt the exhibit needed to include the environmental piece as most of the exhibit’s included pieces use natural resources.
“The vast majority of what is on display uses natural resources and you’ll see and have a look at those quill boxes, ash baskets and artwork using bark from trees, animals and plants,” said Erlewine.
Another facet of the exhibit is that almost all of the 160 pieces on display in the show were created by locals who currently or previously lived in the Petoskey area.
“The exhibit places their work within a historical context so that our community can really see the stories that have made and continue to make our region as special and unique as it is, while also centering on and telling the stories of the people who have been here through it all,” said Erlewine.
The current exhibit did open to the public on Monday, Sept. 20. However, the arts center will be hosting an opening reception from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25.
The opening reception will feature the exhibition paired with light refreshments, an Odawa drumming and dancing presentation, arts and crafts in the visual art room and a quill work demonstration with artist Yvonne Walker-Keshick.
The arts center also has a handful of educational programming every Thursday at 10 a.m. through the duration of the exhibit with local Native Americans and tribal members giving talks and demonstrations. Programming will be available both in-person and through Zoom or Facebook live.
“We’ve been wanting to do this and really showcase our historical and regional artwork but, of course with the last year and COVID-19, we were set back a bit,” said Erlewine. “I’m really excited about all of this and that we get to host this exhibit this year.”
The “Kindred” exhibit will be on display from Monday, Sept. 20 through Saturday, Nov. 27, during the art center’s regular business hours from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information about the exhibition and congruent programming, contact the Crooked Tree Arts Center at (231) 347-4337 or visit www.crookedtree.org.
To schedule a guided gallery tour that features an optional hands-on weaving craft, contact [email protected].
Crooked Tree Arts Center is located at 461 E. Mitchell St. in downtown Petoskey.