Taking language as the theme of the exhibit, the artists used a different character from the Cherokee syllabary as inspiration for their art, according to Museum Director Lisa Simpson Lutts.
The exhibition will feature artwork created by 93 artists from the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma; United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Oklahoma; and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina. The ages of the artists range from 3 to 91. They are practicing artists from all three Cherokee tribes, Cherokee Nation Immersion language students, and Cherokee families.
Each piece of artwork reveals the individual artistic expression of its maker. A section of the exhibit will be devoted to the Cherokee language and will contain a DVD presentation. It will give the phonetic pronunciation of each character in the Cherokee syllabary to help visitors learn more about this language.
The artwork in the exhibit displays a wide range of media so there is something for everyone. “The artists in this exhibit are a very eclectic group of people,” said Cherokee Heritage Center Museum Curator Mickel Yantz. “The participating artists used a variety of media including ink, paint, quilting, baskets, wood, ceramics and even a television set to create 85 original works of art.”
The Cherokee language is unique among Native American languages because it was the first Native American language to be written down. The man who accomplished that remarkable achievement was Tennessee-born Cherokee Sequoyah. Even more remarkable was that Sequoyah himself was illiterate.
Nevertheless, in 1809, he invented a written symbol for each word in Cherokee. His initial attempt, however, was too cumbersome to use in real life. So to make his written language easier to use, he devised a written symbol for each syllable. By 1821 he had devised an 87-character (later reduced to 85) “alphabet” or syllabary. The syllabary allowed the Cherokees to become nearly 95 percent literate overnight.
Today, the Cherokee language continues to be used and taught. Both the Eastern Band of Cherokee and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma teach Cherokee in their schools and actively support art exhibits such as this to promote the survival of their language.
To complement the exhibit, the Museum Center will be host to a number of adult and children’s programs related to Cherokee art, history, and culture. The schedule is as follows:
Aug. 20: Cherokee Family Day — Food and Crafts
10 a.m. to noon — Cherokee Foodways: $10 for museum members and $12 for non-members.
Tammera Hicks, Cherokee educator, will begin the morning teaching about Cherokee foods. She will provide hands-on experience in the making of traditional foods such as corn soup, kanuchi (hickory nut) soup, frybread and dessert. She will discuss the history and importance of these foods to the Cherokee. All attending will be able to taste samples of the prepared foods and receive the recipes. Pre-payment and reservations are required by Aug. 12.
1 to 3 p.m. — Family Medicine Bag Class: $12 for museum members, $15 for non-members.
Hicks will teach a fun class for families ages 7 and up in which they will make their own Cherokee medicine bag. Participants will learn about the importance of medicine bags in Cherokee culture, and then sew and decorate their own bags in this simple and easy craft project. The cost includes one bag. Pre-payment and reservations are required by Aug. 12.
Aug. 25: Cherokee Archaeology Lecture by Russell Townsend
Lecture at 6:30 p.m. — $3 for museum members, $5 for non-members. Townsend, the tribal historic preservation officer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will speak on topics in Cherokee archaeology. Townsend is a popular speaker on archaeology whose talks in Bradley County always draw a large crowd. He was previously employed as director of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore. He has worked also as a professional archaeologist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s in anthropology from the University of Tulsa. He is pursuing a doctorate in this field from the University of Tennessee. No reservations are required for this lecture.
Oct. 1: Cherokee Family Day: Cherokee weaponry, stick ball and dancing
Cherokee weaponry and stick ball demonstration will be from 10 a.m. to noon. Member’s price: $10 per adult, $5 per child; Non-members price: $12 per adult, $7 per child. Hicks will begin the morning at 10 on the museum’s back lawn teaching young and old about the art of Cherokee weaponry including the use of the blow gun (hunting) and stick ball (preparation for wars and ways of settling disputes). Participants will be able to try their hand at the blow gun (age 7 and older, male and female).
From 1 to 2 p.m.: Cherokee Social Dancing. Members’ price: $8 per adult, $5 per child; non-members’ price: $10 per adult, $6 per child. Hicks will teach different styles of Cherokee dancing on the museum’s back lawn. As a group, all will participate in the dance styles and learn the important roles they played in the history of the Cherokee.
Both events will move indoors to the Culture Center in the event of inclement weather. No reservations are required for this fun family day of learning about Cherokee culture!
Oct. 15: Van Trip to New Echota, Capital of the Cherokee Homeland
From 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — $40 for museum members, $45 for non-museum members. Join the museum staff on a van trip to Frontier Days at the Calhoun, Ga., New Echota State Park to view this fascinating reconstruction of the Cherokee capital in the 1830s. Not only will you be able to tour this wonderful museum and reconstructed historic capital of the Cherokee, but the group will be there for the annual Frontier Days. Cherokee artists, craftsmen and others will demonstrate early 19th century skills such as basket making, spinning, weaving, weapons, candle making and blacksmithing. This event will help make New Echota come to life as it was in 1820 when the Cherokee called this the capital of their land. A catered box lunch provided by Gardener’s Market is included with the price. Reservations and pre-payment required by Oct. 12.
The Museum Center at Five Points preserves and interprets the history and culture of the Ocoee District of Southeast Tennessee. The museum hosts exhibits and education programs.
The Museum Store sells Appalachian arts and crafts from the region.
For more information, call 339-5745 or visit www.museumcenter.org.