Interconnected: Celebrating Student Art, Reflecting on Tribal Sovereignty

On the evening of Wednesday, November 9, student artists, their friends and family, along with art museum supporters and guests attended a reception and awards presentation in celebration of the FOCUS-themed exhibition Interconnected: Land, Identity, Community. In this eighth juried Student Response Exhibition (SRE), Miami University students were called upon to creatively respond to the Miami University 2022-2023 FOCUS theme of Tribal Sovereignty. Interconnected is developed in collaboration with the Myaamia Center, with whom the Art Museum has joined efforts on several exhibitions over the past 14 years. The Myaamia Center’s George Ironstrack, Director of Education, and Kara Strass, Director of Miami Tribe Relations, assisted Art Museum staff with the development of the exhibition. In the context of the 50th anniversary of the relationship between the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami University, we are reflecting on the often unseen reality of tribal sovereignty in North America. Here, sovereignty includes inherent and retained political rights and cultural integrity. Three key factors in maintaining sovereignty are land, identity, and community.

Joining the celebration, in addition to colleagues from Miami University’s Myaamia Center at Miami University, were Chief Doug Lankford of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Julie Olds, an artist and the Miami Tribe’s Cultural Resource Officer, as well as other Tribal Council members including: Second Chief, Dustin Olds, Secretary/Treasurer, Donya Williams and First Councilperson, Tera Hatley.

It was such a wonderful opportunity for the student artists to have important members of the Miami Tribe present for the event. Tribal council members, staff of the Myaamia Center, along with John Wiegand, Acting Dean of the College of Creative Arts were at the museum prior to the awards reception for another special event. Staff of the Art Museum worked in collaboration with Myaamia Center staff and Tribal Council members to prepare for the unveiling of a Land Acknowledgement panel now displayed prominently in the museum’s Williams Foyer. The panel, which presents Miami University’s Land Acknowledgment, also emphasizes, for all to see, the Art Museum’s commitment to vibrant collaborations with the Myaamia Center and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma through community-curated exhibitions and programming. This approach provides the opportunity for Myaamia to provide the authentic and authoritative voices that deliver the content for exhibitions celebrating the richness of their culture.

Art Museum Jack Green speaks as Chief Lankford and Interim Dean of CCA John Weigand unveil the new lobby panel

Photo Caption: Above Art Museum Director Jack Green speaks as Chief Doug Lankford of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Acting College of Creative Arts Dean John Weigand unveil the museum's new lobby panel.

Interconnected, the Student Response Exhibition, is one more example of how exhibitions and programmatic offerings provide a framework for directly bridging an important relationship between the Art Museum, and by extension Miami University, and the Myaamia Center and Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. Shortly after the unveiling event in the auditorium space, museum-goers gathered in the Douglass gallery to learn the results of the viewers choice artists awards sponsored by the Art Museum Members Association. Curator of Exhibitions, Jason E. Shaiman was joined by Ann Taulbee, Art Museum Membership Steering Committee Member and Director of the Department of Art’s Hiestand Galleries, to announce the winners.

Since the opening of the exhibition, visitors have been voting for their favorite works on a kiosk located in the gallery. Votes cast by visitors to the exhibition selected the three winners. Placing 3rd with an award of $100 is Kayla Becker for her work niila myaamia - I am myaamia. Becker, who is a Sophomore, Computer Science major, is one of 4 Myaamia students at Miami University who submitted work for the SRE. In 2nd place receiving $250 is Olivia De Leon for her work, Where Do I Stand? De Leon is a Junior, Studio Art major with a minor in Museums and Society. Taking the grand prize of $500 and 1st place, is Cassady Edwards for her work Ol’ Iron Eyes. Edwards is a Senior with a double major in Art Education and Studio Art. Special thanks to the Art Museum’s Membership Committee for providing the cash awards and their continued support of the Student Response Exhibition series, and thanks to all who visited the exhibition and cast their votes. To learn about all of the student artist check out this blog post featuring them and thier work.

Cassady Edwards Student Artist pictured with her award winning art olivia_de_leon_2ndpl_fa22sre.jpg kayla_becker_3rdpl_fa22_sre.jpg

Viewer's Choice

First Place Award Winner ($500)

Cassady Edwards

Viewer's Choice

Second Place Award Winner ($250)

Olivia De Leon

Viewer's Choice

Third Place Award Winner ($100)

Kayla Becker

What an amazing evening it was at the Miami University Art Museum with two special events connected to the Myaamia Center and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. Collaborations of this nature demonstrate the importance of the Art Museum’s exhibitions and programming in celebrating diversity and artistic expression.