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The Episcopal Church in Wyoming launches ‘ArtSpirit’ initiative

Robert Martinez (Northern Arapaho) “Old Stirs,” 2022, Airbrushed acrylic and oil on linen.

The Episcopal Church in Wyoming is launching a major new initiative called “ArtSpirit,” intended to cover all its artistic programming.

The diocese said it sees artistic creativity “as a force for transformation, toward healing our world and creatively fostering peace, harmony, wholeness and health … both with each other and with the earth.” ArtSpirit will explore and nurture the relationship between faith, spirituality and the arts.

The diocese launched ArtSpirit on Oct. 2, 2022 at the Fremont County Pioneer Museum in Lander, Wyo., through an exhibition of contemporary Native American artists titled “GROUNDED: Restoring our world through a Sacred Harmony with the earth and each other.”

GROUNDED brings together 15 contemporary artists from Indigenous American tribes traditionally based in and around the Great Plains region, expressing the need to be “grounded” in our relationship with all of creation: the earth and its wildlife, each other and ourselves.

Their artistic practice is a unique blend of heritage and creative expression. Their work serves as a visual representation of the worldview, wisdom and learnings of their forebears and understanding of the interconnectedness of the sacred, the natural world, and one another.

This unique contemporary art exhibition enables the artists to share their culture, heritage and sacred traditions to help heal our world and foster wholeness among all peoples.

The 15 contemporary artists from eight indigenous tribes were invited to participate based on the artists’ previous work and their ability to express the exhibition’s theme through the lens of their heritage and cultural worldview. The exhibition is curated by noted Northern Arapaho artist Robert Martinez.

According to Martinez it is also an opportunity “to bring contemporary original indigenous artwork to new audiences.”

These artists are “communicators, using their own tools, and their perceptions to share some of their knowledge and express what being “grounded” means to them,” he said.

Joanne Brings Thunder (Eastern Shoshone) “Interconnectedness,” 2022, Acrylic paint, ink, colored pencil on antique ledger paper dated 1810.

The artists are: Ben Pease (Apsáalooke-Crow), Brent Learned (Arapaho/Cheyenne), Carlin Bear Don’t Walk (Apsáalooke-Crow/Northern Cheyenne), Donald F. Montileaux (Oglala Sioux), Henry Payer (Ho-Chunk), Hillary Kempenich (Anishinaabe), Jackie Larson Bread (Blackfeet), Jackie Sevier (Northern Arapaho), Jim Yellowhawk (Itazipco/Cheyenne River Sioux), Joanne Brings Thunder (Eastern Shoshone), John Pepion (Blackfeet), Louis Still Smoking (Blackfeet), Robert Martinez (Northern Arapaho), Talissa Abeyta (Eastern Shoshone), Wade Patton (Oglala Lakota).

The exhibition will begin its global tour in Wyoming in the cities of Lander, Casper, Cheyenne, Jackson, Worland and Rock Springs, before moving to other key venues in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and then end its tour in the Middle East.

Bishop of Wyoming Paul-Gordon Chandler is the organizing coordinator of the ArtSpirit initiative. Previously when living in Cairo, he founded CARAVAN, an international arts non-profit which similarly seeks “transformation through the arts.”

The exhibition serves as a catalyst for each host venue to develop various events and programs tailored to the specific needs of their community to stimulate discussion, dialogue and education around the exhibition’s theme toward promoting further understanding and widening the engagement with the artwork.

Henry Payer (Ho-Chunk) “The Wandering Winnebago No2,” 2022, Collage and mixed media on ledger paper.

Wyoming program partners for GROUNDED include Wyoming Humanities Council, Wyoming Arts Council, six noted exhibition spaces, and Episcopal churches throughout the state.

To learn more about the GROUNDED exhibition and view the artwork, visitoncaravan.org/grounded

For more information about ArtSpirit and the associated programming around the GROUNDED exhibition, contact Genie Osburn, Communications Coordinator for the Episcopal Church in Wyoming: genie@episcopalwy.org

CARAVAN Artist Spotlight: An interview with Robert Martinez 

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