Cowboy songs, Native American comedy and environmental studies join art history in the first Tacoma Art Museum Symposium of Western American Art, held at the museum Saturday. The museum hopes this cross-discipline approach to the usually highly academic nature of art symposia will attract all enthusiasts of the American West and combine education with entertainment. Along with the presentations, the museum will launch its new website “Contemporary Native Voices,” a collection of Native American views on the content in the museum’s new Haub Western art collection.
“We’ve brought in regional and national voices to address the evolving definition of the American West and its legacy in American art. The Haub Family Collection is a rich resource, supporting a new level of contribution and advancement in this field,” museum director Stephanie Stebich said in a press release.
Presenting at the symposium are leaders in four fields: folk musician Hal Cannon, a radio producer, author and founder of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering; activist and comedy screenwriter Migizi Pensoneau (Ponca/Ojibwe), a Hollywood and independent writer and producer known for work on American Indians and popular culture; curator Mindy Besaw from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American art; and University of Puget Sound professor Douglas Sackman, who specializes in environmental, Native American and Northwestern history.
“We’re taking an innovative, cross-disciplinary approach to learning about the visual and performing arts in the West,” said Haub curator Laura Fry in the release.
On the same day the museum will launch its website Contemporary Native Voices, a response by the museum to controversial content in the Haub collection concerning visual representation of Native Americans in Western art. Haub fellow and art scholar Asia Tail has been interviewing Native Americans from various regions and tribes since September on that visual representation and how it affects cultural portrayal and understanding. Some of the interview comments are displayed with the art, but the website offers a more comprehensive narration.
Seating is limited for the symposium; registration is highly recommended.