UNCW Honors Indigenous Peoples of Southeastern NC with Artwork Installation

Monday, October 24, 2022

Public artwork honoring the Indigenous peoples of southeastern North Carolina will be installed on Nov. 3 on UNCW’s campus. Artist Jessica Clark, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, was commissioned to create the piece.

"UNCW's Office of the Arts is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and believe this stunning artwork honors southeast North Carolina Indigenous peoples in such a beautiful and complex way," said Dr. Jeanine Mingé, associate provost for community engagement and impact and executive director of the Office of the Arts. "We must continue the conversation and solidify our dedication to Indigenous peoples in this region and beyond."

Clark is known for her figurative works of southeastern Indigenous peoples, which document and preserve their everyday lives. Her work has been exhibited in the U.S. and France, including the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Pennsylvania State University, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and the Painting Center in New York.

"Even though the images are of southeastern Indigenous peoples, there are issues represented that people of every ethnicity can relate to," said Clark. "I hope that viewers walk away with a better understanding of contemporary Indigenous people. So often, Indigenous peoples are portrayed and spoken of as living in the past, but that is far from true. We walk in two worlds, honoring our traditions and cultures while thriving in a contemporary world."

She commended UNCW for honoring southeastern NC's tribal communities.

"Universities are educational institutions, and that should include educating students on whose lands these institutions are built on and the communities they are surrounded by," she said. "Indigenous communities are left out of many programs and conversations, so a project of this magnitude is a start. Visual art is something that so many can relate to, no matter the language or background. The arts are a universal language."

The project is a collaboration among the Office of the Arts, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, members of several North Carolina tribal communities, and a component of the Office of the Arts' "Artivism For Social Change" initiative, a collaborative series of arts events and programs.

"As we continually seek to foster a sense of belonging on this campus, we believe in the power of public art to inspire meaningful conversations between us, about our histories and reflective of our lived experiences," said Dr. Donyell Roseboro, chief diversity officer. "This mural represents the complexity of identity in so many ways while it honors the presence of North Carolina indigenous peoples."

The ceremony kicks off with drumming and singing performances beginning at 2 p.m. at the UNCW Amphitheater. The unveiling will be held at 5 p.m. in the Clock Tower Lounge in Fisher Student Union. Nancy Strickland Fields, director and curator of The Museum of the Southeast American Indian in Pembroke, NC, is the event’s keynote speaker. The event is free and open to the public.

-- Venita Jenkins