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Native artists Jeri Redcorn and Joseph Erb to create large-scale works for OKC's First Americans Museum

Jeri Redcorn, Caddo potter, poses for a photo at her home in Norman, Okla. on Thursday, May 28, 2009. [The Oklahoman Archives]
Jeri Redcorn, Caddo potter, poses for a photo at her home in Norman, Okla. on Thursday, May 28, 2009. [The Oklahoman Archives]

UPDATED at 12:55 p.m. Sept. 2: This post has been corrected to reflect that the museum is expected to open in fall 2021. - BAM

As the First Americans Museum near downtown Oklahoma City moves closer to its fall 2021 opening, two Native American artists have been selected to create large-scale works of public art for its interior. 

Jeri Redcorn and Joseph Erb, who both have Oklahoma ties, will create projects for the museum as part of the Oklahoma Art in Public Places program, administered by the Oklahoma Arts Council, in partnership with Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, according to a news release. 

Redcorn, internationally renowned for reviving traditional Caddo pottery, will create an enhancement to the exterior walls of the museum’s Origins Theater. Titled “Ayo Wahdut Kuku (Sky Earth Water),” the work will represent a Caddo ceramic pot and will acknowledge the Caddo as one of the original inhabitants of the land now recognized as Oklahoma. 

Redcorn’s body of work is inspired by her research of styles and designs of the Caddo people dating back 500 years. Former President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama displayed artwork by Redcorn in the Oval Office during President Obama’s term in office.  

“What a great honor to be a part of celebrating the First Americans Museum, a magnificent tribute to tribal history, culture, and art,” Redcorn said in a statement. “My contribution, ceramic art of the Caddo pre-colonization, is a tribute to Enah wah-dut, mother earth. I use the simple gifts from Ah-ah hiyo, father above, the clay, water, and fire to create beautiful vessels in the tradition of my ancestral Caddo people. To honor the Caddo, original inhabitants of Oklahoma, gives me a sense of bringing the past forward.”

Artist Joseph Erb is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and professor at the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies. [Photo provided]
Artist Joseph Erb is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and professor at the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies. [Photo provided]

Erb, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and professor at the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies, will create “Indigenous Brilliance,” an illustration to be presented on a double-heighted copper wall on the interior of the museum. 

The design depicts the relationship between the land and the people of Oklahoma, reflecting historical events such as removal, land runs and the Dust Bowl, while incorporating positive imagery symbolizing Native knowledge, strength, resilience, and affirmation of a promising future. 

“This museum is one of the most important places for Native American representation I have seen in the world,” Erb said in a statement. “Most museums show our cultures as a past tense understanding, which limits the full understanding of who we are as Indigenous people, cultures, and nations. ‘Indigenous Brilliance’ reflects how Indigenous people are a part of the past, present, and future of this world. It highlights knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation.”

According to The Oklahoman's William Crum, the First Americans Museum is designed to be a repository for history, stories and traditions of of the 39 tribal nations headquartered in Oklahoma. Conceived in the 1990s as the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, the $175 million, 175,000-square-foot museum is designed to Smithsonian Institution standards and is prominently situated southeast of the I-35/40 interchange near downtown OKC.

“We are so excited for visitors to walk into the museum on opening day and see these two new monumental works of art. We are proud they were created by two First American artists living in Oklahoma specifically for the museum. Now we have public art outside the museum greeting visitors upon arrival and inside the museum welcoming all in the exhibit galleries,” said J. Blake Wade, executive director for the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, in a statement.

Administered by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the two Oklahoma Art in Public Places projects are enabled by the funding authorized by the 2015 Legislature for the museum. The museum originated as a project of the State of Oklahoma and is now being completed through a partnership between the State of Oklahoma and The City of Oklahoma City, with help of a Chickasaw Nation subsidiary, the American Indian Cultural Center Foundation and numerous donors.

The American Indian Cultural Center Foundation will operate the museum on behalf of the City, and AICCM Land Development LLC will develop the surrounding property, according to the news release. 

“We are honored to facilitate the public art process at the First Americans Museum. These two works of art will broaden discourse and understanding of Indigenous cosmologies and values. Jeri and Joseph’s artwork speak not only to the role art plays in the transmission of cultural knowledge but also as a vessel of communication, connecting diverse people in public spaces. Likewise, they stand as markers of memory and the continued presence and resilience of Indigenous peoples in Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples in a statement. 

First Americans Museum is slated to open in September 2021, celebrating a shared history of America through the lens and collective stories of the 39 distinct tribal nations now present in Oklahoma. Located at the intersection of three major interstate highways, the museum is expected to attract travelers from across the globe. It will serve as a place where all people can gather for the study, reflection, and celebration of Native American culture.

The public art projects are scheduled to be completed before the opening of the museum and will be seen by the public for the first time on opening day, according to the news release. 

 For more information on the First Americans Museum, go to famok.org

-BAM 

Related Photos
Jeri Redcorn, Caddo potter, poses for a photo at her home in Norman, Okla. on Thursday, May 28, 2009. [The Oklahoman Archives]

Jeri Redcorn, Caddo potter, poses for a photo at her home in Norman, Okla. on Thursday, May 28, 2009. [The Oklahoman Archives]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e303bf860f113b386658db2aa5677b90.jpg" alt="Photo - Jeri Redcorn, Caddo potter, poses for a photo at her home in Norman, Okla. on Thursday, May 28, 2009. [The Oklahoman Archives]" title="Jeri Redcorn, Caddo potter, poses for a photo at her home in Norman, Okla. on Thursday, May 28, 2009. [The Oklahoman Archives]"><figcaption>Jeri Redcorn, Caddo potter, poses for a photo at her home in Norman, Okla. on Thursday, May 28, 2009. [The Oklahoman Archives]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cb496dd3962b36364592ed5945309efe.jpg" alt="Photo - Artist Joseph Erb is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and professor at the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies. [Photo provided]" title="Artist Joseph Erb is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and professor at the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies. [Photo provided]"><figcaption>Artist Joseph Erb is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and professor at the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies. [Photo provided]</figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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