The President’s Fine Art Series is an annual tradition at MSU, hosted by the Office of the President and the College of Arts and Architecture. This year’s series was called “Creative Nations” and focused on American Indian art and culture. Events took place from Feb. 18 to April 4.
This series was something that Dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, Dr. Nancy Cornwell, had been planning since she stepped into the position of dean three and a half years ago. The first two series she helped organize included “Art Matters,” which focused on the transformational power of art, and “The Art of Science: The Science of Art.”
As is the goal every year, the series strove to display fabulous art. Additionally, this year’s series had a special aspect of community outreach. “This series provided Native American students with a sense of belonging and a sense of place,” Cornwell said. The series showcased examples of creativity and success of American Indian community members.
Once planning commenced, they realized that the series could also be used as a way to raise money for American Indian scholarships. “That was kind of an opportunistic goal,” Cornwell said. This series was a way for MSU to stimulate the program and support scholarships in the future.
MSU commissioned a painting by MSU art student Louis Still Smoking to promote the series. The painting, called “Buffalo Stone”, was then auctioned off. Additionally, Bozeman artist Jim Dolan donated two sculptures — the last of his collection of “Bleu Horses,” — 39 of which are located alongside highway 287 in Montana.
Cornwell believes that “Creative Nations” has sparked the growth of a great environment for American Indian students at MSU, especially within the College of Arts and Architecture. She stressed that it is important to continue to support this environment by weaving traditional American Indian practices into the curriculum. “I want to encourage the faculty to be more intentional about this,” she said.
According to Cornwell, the response to “Creative Nations” was extremely positive. “The real connection was with the community, in a way that hasn’t happened in the past. There have been events in the past that interested them, but this series as a whole started to generate this momentum,” she said.
Something unique about this year was that MSU brought in community members to help plan it. The American Indian community both on campus and across the state provided input. First Nations representatives (various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis — over 630 recognized First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada) even came to Bozeman from Canada to attend a sold-out event at the Emerson, which featured American Indian author and film producer Sherman Alexie. “It was really important for us to create a program that resonated with those communities because it is a gift to the community from Montana State,” Cornwell said.
Both the College of Arts and Architecture and the Office of the President contribute to the funding and execution of the Fine Art Series each year. According to Cornwell, the two groups informally work together to build a theme. Additionally, MSU President Waded Cruzado leads a panel each year. “She is very involved and encouraging,” Cornwell said.
“Creative Nations” was brought to a close with the MSU powwow, which took place April 3-4.