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Supporting Native Artists

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 12:08pm -- Jody Clowes

In 2016 the James Watrous Gallery presented an exhibition called Beading Culture: Raised Beadwork and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, organized in partnership with the Oneida Nation Museum and the Oneida Nation Arts Program. Beading Culture shared the story of how the Wisconsin Oneida are keeping their beadwork tradition vital and relevant in the 21st century.

As a corollary to the exhibit, we asked Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida) and Melanie Tallmadge Sainz (Ho-Chunk) to share their perspective on supporting and promoting Native art and artists. Both women have a wealth of experience as artists, educators, curators, advocates, and bridge-builders. We hope their insights will inform and inspire others who would like to pursue a similar path.

This interview was conducted by Beading Culture co-curator Anne Pryor at Native Presence Gallery in April 2017. Funding was provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A few notes about references made in this interview, in sequential order:

  • Pounding ash refers to the traditional method of pounding ash logs to create splints for basketmaking.
  • Aldo Leopold Nature Center co-sponsored a series of workshops with Little Eagle Arts Foundation (LEAF). LEAF organized the creation of a mural for Kilbourn Public Library in Wisconsin Dells.
  • Suitcase exhibits are portable collections of art and other objects to share during workshops and presentation
  •  The Thanksgiving Address is a traditional Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) prayer.
  • The Wisconsin Arts Board’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program began in 1985 and was managed by Richard March until his retirement in 1996. It has also been referred to as the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, and at one point in the interview it is described as an internship.
  • Act 31 is a Wisconsin statute requiring public school districts to provide instruction in the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of the twelve American Indian nations and tribes in the state.
  • Patty Loew is the author of Indian Nations of Wisconsin and Native Peoples of Wisconsin, which are often used as secondary and elementary school textbooks.


Karen Ann Hoffman is a Haudenosaunee raised beader from Stevens Point. A citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, she creates objects of great beauty and cultural significance that reflect Haudenosaunee understandings and honor generational legacies.

Melanie Tallmadge Sainz is an artist in several media, including basketry, quillwork, and beadwork. She is Ho-Chunk and grew up in Wisconsin Dells, where her parents Roger and Bernadine Tallmadge owned and operated the Winnebago Indian Museum for many years.

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Wisconsin Academy Offices 
1922 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608.733.6633


James Watrous Gallery 
3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25