UCR’s Culver Center to Host Sweeping ‘Neo Native’ Contemporary Arts Symposium

The four-day event will bring together Native American artists and curators, historians, and scholars who specialize in Native American studies

"Ancestry Image 02" by Steven Paul Judd

“Ancestry Image 02” by Steven Paul Judd, one of the featured artists in the Maloof Foundation exhibition that inspired the “Neo Native” symposium Photo credit: Steven Paul Judd

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — An unprecedented four-day symposium hosted by the University of California, Riverside will spotlight Native American artists whose work explores aspects of the contemporary Native American experience.

Held Nov. 1-4, “Neo Native: Toward New Mythologies” further brings to life the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts’ 40-work exhibition of the same name, which opened in June at the Alta Loma-based gallery.

The exhibition, curated by Navajo painter Tony Abeyta, includes pieces from 11 contemporary artists with Native American tribal affiliations, including ceramicists, painters, photographers, printmakers, and sculptors.

At the symposium, eight of the exhibition’s featured artists — including Abeyta, who works in both Berkeley and Santa Fe, New Mexico — will meet to discuss their practices and the greater roles art plays in Native communities.

Joining them are 23 internationally celebrated visual artists, photographers, filmmakers, cinematographers, performers, screenwriters, scholars, and one composer-instrumentalist, each of whom will contribute to the conversation initiated by the exhibition’s body of artistic work during panel sessions, Q&As, keynote presentations, or live performances.

“Our speakers are all extremely well-known leaders in both the arts field and the discipline of Native American studies; on the academic side, we primarily chose Native American-focused art historians, curators, and scholars as presenters,” said UCR’s Allison Hedge Coke, a distinguished professor of creative writing.

The event’s primary co-organizers include Hedge Coke and fellow UCR faculty members Gerald Clarke, an assistant professor of ethnic studies; Michelle Raheja, an associate professor of English who directs UCR’s California Center for Native Nations, the symposium’s host entity; and Jason Weems, an associate professor of art history.

Clarke, an enrolled member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians who creates sculptures, installations, and other conceptual pieces, said the indigenous artists, critics, and historians involved in “Neo Native” will offer modern alternatives to traditional perspectives on Native American arts and culture, both of which tend to be viewed only through the lens of colonialism.

"Racial Profiling" by Craig George

“Racial Profiling” by Craig George, one of the featured artists in the Maloof Foundation exhibition that inspired the “Neo Native” symposium
Photo credit: James Hart

“The Native arts community is a diverse and vibrant group of individuals dedicated to the expression of the contemporary indigenous experience,” Clarke said. “The ‘Neo Native’ symposium will provide these people with an opportunity to interact, discuss, and support one another’s current efforts.”

The symposium’s events are free and open to the public, although registration is required for entry. Highlights include the following:

  • On Wednesday, Nov. 1, two buses will depart UCR’s Lot 1 at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; the buses will shuttle guests to the Maloof Foundation for viewings of Abeyta’s “Neo Native” exhibition, which remains on view through Jan. 7, 2018. Anyone interested in attending the guided tour should be sure to reserve a spot on one of the buses here, as seating is limited to 24 guests per bus.
  • On Thursday, Nov. 2, UCR ARTSblock’s Culver Center of the Arts will host morning and afternoon panel sessions from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Between the two panel sessions, Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond will screen his film “The Last Explorer” (2009) and participate in a Q&A about the project from 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m. The day will conclude at the California Museum of Photography with a live performance from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. by multi-instrumentalist Laura Ortman and a keynote speech from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. by Paul Chaat Smith, author, critic, and associate curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
  • On Friday, Nov. 3, the Culver Center will again host morning and afternoon panel sessions, this time from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Between the two panel sessions, Shane Brown, a Cherokee Nation citizen and cinematographer, will screen the film “Mekko” (2015) and participate in a Q&A about the project from noon to 2 p.m. Artists Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch, both of whom created banners for water protectors during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as part of their Onaman Collective, will deliver the evening’s keynote speech at the California Museum of Photography from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • On Saturday, Nov. 4, Clarke and the multidisciplinary artist Cannupa Hanska Luger, who famously produced mirrored shields for the activists on the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, will oversee several all-ages workshops at the Culver Center from 10 a.m. to noon. According to Clarke, the one-hour sessions will introduce participants to practices such as drawing, sculpting, basket weaving, and cordage making.
"Offerings to Save the World" by Christi Belcourt

“Offerings to Save the World” by Christi Belcourt, one of the featured artists in the Maloof Foundation exhibition that inspired the “Neo Native” symposium
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts

“The symposium is brilliantly timed,” Smith said. “Major art museums are rethinking how they’re presenting Native works, and some are now including them in their American galleries. This month’s issue of Art in America magazine is devoted to Indian art, with an Edgar Heap of Birds work on the cover.

“It’s a season of unprecedented possibility. I’m looking forward to seeing how the artists, curators, performers, and other troublemakers will help us understand this moment in all its complexity and potential.”

Likewise, Clarke said he hopes “Neo Native” will continue to boost UCR’s prominence as a leader in Native American and indigenous studies. In recent years, the university has taken steps to enhance its academic offerings in both realms, most notably through its cluster hiring initiative.

“UCR welcomed eight new Native American professors over the course of the past two years,” Raheja said. “That brings the total number of Native studies scholars working in various disciplines on campus to more than 25, many of whom are Native American. This is an unprecedented number of faculty in the field, not only within the UC system, but internationally as well.”

Additional sponsors of the event include the Center for Ideas & Society; Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs; College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts; Native American Student Programs; and the Departments of Anthropology, Art, Comparative Literature, Creative Writing, Dance, English, Ethnic Studies, History of Art, Media and Cultural Studies, Music, Sociology, and Theater, Film, and Digital Production.

"Last Indian Market" by Cara Romero

“Last Indian Market” by Cara Romero, one of the featured artists in the Maloof Foundation exhibition that inspired the “Neo Native” symposium
Photo credit: Cara Romero

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-1287
E-mail: tess.eyrich@ucr.edu

Additional Contacts

Allison Hedge Coke
E-mail: allison.hedgecoke@ucr.edu

Michelle Raheja
E-mail: michrr@ucr.edu

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