Exhibit highlights Native American art

By Carol Ekstrom

A Native American art exhibit is on display at the NIU Art Museum through May 17 thanks to a loan from the NIU Anthropology Museum.

“Native American Workers of Clay: 2500 B.C. – 1500 A.D.” is a reflection of four thousand years of creative activity from the Native American culture.

The works of the exhibit are from the Anthropology Museum’s permanent collection and the Richard K. Meyer Sr. Collection, which is on long-term loan to the museum.

NIU Art Museum Director Lynda Martin said the objects in the exhibit have been displayed as art rather than artifacts.

“Usually when Native American objects are displayed, it depicts their lifestyles, using the art only to describe their everyday life,” she said. “We are taking the pieces out of context so it can be looked at as works of art.”

NIU Anthropology Museum Director Milton Deemer said they are cooperating with other museums on campus so that displays normally viewed only by people interested in anthropology will be appreciated by a larger audience.

“We are trying to encourage people to look at objects in a different way,” he said. “A lot of things made by cultures of over 100 years ago are forgotten as works of art.”

Martin said Native Americans living in the Midwest and southwest prior to contact with Europeans created most of the objects on display in the exhibition.

“Most of the diversity of the exhibit can be accounted for by differences in culture, environment, and availability of materials,” she said.

Martin said background information on the cultures represented are provided for viewers who are interested in expanding their understanding of Native American history.

Museum hours are from Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.