“A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art” exhibit set to open

by Jun 12, 2021A&E, COMMUNITY sgadugi


Special to the One Feather


“A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art” features over 50 works of art in a variety of media by 30+ Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Cherokee Nation artists. The exhibition highlights the use of the written Cherokee language, a syllabary developed by Cherokee innovator Sequoyah (circa 1776–1843). Cherokee syllabary is frequently found in the work of Cherokee artists as a compositional element or the subject matter of the work itself. The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian from June 12 to Oct. 31 and in the Asheville Art Museum’s Appleby Foundation Exhibition Hall from Nov. 18, 2021 to March 14, 2022.

Jeff Edwards (Cherokee Nation), Tsalagiopoly, 2013, archival inkjet print on paper, 30 × 24 inches. Courtesy the Artist. © Jeff Edwards, image Jeff Edwards

The Cherokee Syllabary is a system of writing developed by Sequoyah in the early 1800s prior to the Removal period. Through Sequoyah’s innovative work, Cherokee people embraced the writing system as an expedient form of communication and documentation. During the Removal period, the syllabary was used as a tactic to combat land dispossession. Cherokee people continue to use the syllabary as a form of cultural expression and pride, which is showcased in the contemporary artwork of the Cherokee Citizens in this exhibition.

“We are pleased to host this gathering of works from contemporary Cherokee artists, who perfectly illustrate how our language is a living and evolving part of who we are. It is moving to see how each artist finds inspiration in their own way from this language that connects us as Cherokee people,” said Shana Bushyhead Condill, executive director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

“The Asheville Art Museum and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian have been long term collaborators, and we are delighted to further our partnership by working together to manage an open call to Cherokee artists and subsequently curate this exciting exhibition of contemporary works that take inspiration from, celebrate, preserve and interpret the syllabary,” said Pamela L. Myers, executive director of the Asheville Art Museum. “On view at both museums, we hope the exhibition engages a wide and diverse audience in dialogue with these extraordinary works.”

“A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art” is organized by the Asheville Art Museum and Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and curated by Joshua Adams, EBCI artist and independent curator, and Hilary Schroeder, assistant curator at the Asheville Art Museum. This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership, and sponsored in part by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and Kevin Click and April Liou in memory of Myron E. Click.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artists include Joshua Adams, Jody Lipscomb Bradley, Nathan Bush, Kane Crowe, John Henry Gloyne, Shan Goshorn, Luzene Hill, Christy Long, Louise Bigmeat Maney, Christopher McCoy, Tara McCoy, Joel Queen, Sean Ross, Jakeli Swimmer, Rhiannon Skye Tafoya, Mary Thompson, Stan Tooni Jr.,  Alica Wildcatt, and Fred Wilnoty.

Cherokee Nation artists include Roy Boney Jr., Jeff Edwards, Joseph Erb, Raychel Foster, Kenny Glass, Camilla McGinty, Jessica Mehta, America Meredith, Jane Osti, Lisa Rutherford, Janet L. Smith, Jennifer Thiessen, and Jennie Wilson.