Manuela Well-Off-Man germinated an idea several years ago, while she was an associate curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: produce an exhibit of contemporary art created by indigenous U.S. and Canadian artists.
Her idea comes to fruition this fall with the opening Saturday (Oct. 6) of “Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now.” The vibrant, contemporary art in the exhibit comes from 41 indigenous artists and incorporates painting, sculpture, performance art, basket weaving and video.
The exhibit will continue in Bentonville for 13 weeks, then move to the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in New Mexico, where Well-Off-Man has been chief curator since 2016.
She is part of a three-woman curator team, alongside Mindy Besaw of Crystal Bridges and Candice Hopkins, an independent curator from Albuquerque, N.M., who is a citizen of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.
The art is on loan from the artists themselves and from institutions and private collections, according to Besaw.
One of the pieces, by Tulsa painter Yatika Fields, is being painted in downtown Bentonville, as a mural on a building owned by Eldon Cripps that houses his law firm.
Fields, who is of Osage/Cherokee/Creek heritage, became interested in graffiti aesthetics while attending The Art Institute of Boston. The mural is a collaboration between the museum and Visit Bentonville.
A full roster of programs is planned for the opening weekend, including a curator discussion the evening of Oct. 5.
Most of the museum’s special exhibits have a small admission fee, but a sponsorship from the John and Christy Mack Foundation is allowing free admission for the public.
Crystal Bridges partnered with the University of Arkansas Press to publish a 220-page catalog of the exhibit with more than 100 illustrations. The book will be for sale at Crystal Bridges.