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About the Collection

Merlin Little Thunder - Thru the Passage of Brighter DaysNative artists are among Oklahoma’s greatest treasures. There are more professional artists in our state, producing a greater diversity of work, than anywhere else in the country. Oklahoma’s Native artists possess a variety of backgrounds, with some who are self-taught and some who are graduates of college and university art programs. Still others have attended specialized art schools and art institutes, both Native and non-Native.

The Oklahoma Native Artists’ Project began in 2010 with  oral histories of Native artists specializing in painting, pottery, sculpture, photography, and installation or concept art. Work focused on artists who reside in the state or have Oklahoma roots, , and besides basic biographical information, topics covered included narrators’ memories of first making art, the development of their style and subject matter, and galleries and shows important to their careers.  If artists were actively producing at that time, they were frequently asked about the 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts Act.  At the end of each interview, artists discussed a few examples of their work on video.

Another goal of the project has been to gather information about the commercial Native art scene on the consumption side. To this end, interviews were conducted with select gallery owners and collectors.  Again, besides basic biographical information, questions were asked about the roles played by consumers in the growth of Native art markets and about Native art’s cultural and economic impact on the state.

As our collection expands to include bead artists, jewelers, basketmakers, and weavers, and as we continue to add collectors and gallery owners to the mix, we invite users of this site to keep checking back with us. Should you spot an artist or two whose work you would like to follow, you will find digital links to artists’ shows and special events, when available.  In addition, we are hosting an online gallery, featuring examples of artwork by our interviewees in various media.