KYLE, S.D. – There is no word for art in the Lakota language. But the power of art, in every facet of life, has drawn a boisterous group of moccasin beaders, painters, regalia artists and producers of Native hip-hop down a two-lane road that undulates through the tawny hills of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 8 miles from the nearest intersection.
Shawn Brigman was in preschool when he first caught a glimpse of the Spokane River. On a field trip to a museum exhibit of Indigenous artifacts with his class, they first stopped to see the massive waterway. As 4-year-old Brigman approached a ravine to peer down at the river, its roar rang louder and louder in his ears until the intensity of the water overtook him – a sensation he compared to an adrenaline rush .
Growing up, I marveled at the themed Christmas cards my father created in our basement darkroom each holiday season. A hobby photographer who taught each of his four children how to develop film, dad’s magical ability to transform our entire family into dancing elves or spirited snow people was a wonder to my young eyes and a smash hit with both relatives and neighbors alike. Back then, mailboxes brimmed chock-full of colorful Christmas cards, but these days our options for conveying holiday wishes are vast and varied.
Twenty years ago, a dozen local painters, photographers and fine crafts makers banded together to form an artists’ cooperative. They called their co-op Avenue West Gallery, based simply on its location on West First Avenue in downtown Spokane.