Native American Art in the Present Tense


All Kenwood students were able to participate in this residency during their art classes with Ms. Swenson.   


Kenwood students are engaging in a series of art projects introducing them to Dakota and

Ojibwe contemporary art practices based in tradition and history.

**Kindergarten students created “Tree of Life” artworks as they learned about mid-20th

century painter Norval Morriseau (Ojibwe) founder of the Woodland style of painting.

**First grade students met artist James Autio(Ojibwe) for a presentation of his artwork and a

question and answer session. Then the students painted with Autio using Ojibwe family clan

symbols and designs.

**Second grade students met painter Gordon Coons (Ojibwe/Ottawa) for a presentation of his

Woodlands style artwork and a question and answer session. Then Gordon led them in an

exercise to create their own personal artwork with a meaning and story behind their drawings.

** Third grade students met Kenwood

parent, Dr. Angie Erdrich and parent alumna, Heid

Erdrich, both Ojibwe. The Erdrichs showed and taught the students about Ojibwe baskets,

heirloom Dakota corn, porcupine quillwork and other beautiful things from their personal

collections. Students drew an ear of Native American corn as a related art project using

observational drawing.

**Fourth grade students met Dyani White Hawk (Lakota) for a presentation of her artwork and

a lesson on abstraction. She then led the students in an abstract collage art project.

**Fifth grade students learned about the mid-20thcentury painter Patrick DesJarlait (Ojibwe)

who painted the seasonal work of Ojibwe people of the Red Lake Nation. Students focused on

the fish that the Ojibwe catch in Red Lake and that DesJarlait depicted in his paintings. Each

student created a watercolor painting of one of these fish (Walleye, Bass, Northern Pike,

Crappie and Perch). Students layered colors and added detail in the style of DesJarlait.


An exhibit of the artwork from these residencies will be displayed in the lower corridor of the


school for the month of November in honor and celebration of Native American History

Month. The exhibit opening will be the evening of November 16 during Family Involvement



The Kenwood PTA sponsored the residencies. Heid and Angie Erdrich have graciously given

countless hours of their time and expertise in making these experiences possible. They have

shown how to teach about present day Native Americans while avoiding stereotypes,

misinformation and the habit of keeping Native culture frozen in time. This project also

addresses important questions about respecting legacy such as, how to pay homage without

crossing into cultural appropriation.

These residencies have attracted the interest and support of Mia (the Minneapolis Institute of

Arts). Mia staff is observing the artists in Kenwood classrooms. They are working with Heid,

the artists and Margaret Swenson to develop on-line lessons that will be available to all teachers in the future.