Artist Profile: Cultural Capital Grantee Duane Goodwin

For Duane Goodwin, there is no better way to start a day of rock sculpting than very early in the morning—in the cool of the shade.

"It is messy and it is hard work," said Goodwin, who is a renowned Native artist and one of this year's First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital grantees. "But it is wonderful work—a wonderful challenge to see something in the rock, and bring the spirit out of the rock."

Goodwin shared his passion and expertise with community members this summer as part of the Cultural Capital program, first conducting a birch bark basketmaking workshop in June and then a stone carving workshop in July.

Goodwin, who is a full-time professor at Leech Lake Tribal College in Minnesota and also received a Community Spirit Award from First Peoples Fund last year, said the grant program has encouraged him to continue with his art.

"I've been teaching since 1973," he said, and it is a challenge to find the time and energy to do his sculpting on the side. After more than 40 years of sculpting rock, he said, the workshops reminded him of his passion for the art form.

"It's given me more inspiration to do it fulltime," he said, which is a possibility with retirement in the future.

The birch bark workshop taught students the traditional strategy of gathering materials from the woods.

"Today they are using more synthetic fibers to sew baskets," he said. "My objective was to get them to use all natural materials again."

Students were also taught about one of the best ways to make a sturdy, attractive basket, which involves stripping and steaming ash bark to form hoops for the basket frame.

"There's a lot of preparation, but the end result is a very sturdy basket," he added. "The old style is more authentic, stronger and has more aesthetic value."

During the stone carving workshop, Goodwin elected to only work with four students, who he described as "motivated and interested."

"They were easy to connect with, they listened and they were familiar with the tools," he said, which made it easy for him to share his private collection of resources and tools with them. The students learned about the geology of rocks, selected a rock from Goodwin's collection and spent three hours a day for two weeks carving.

Working hand-in-hand with students who have a desire to learn is inspirational, he said.

"I couldn't have done it without the grant," he said. "It was a good experience to share what I know and it is an opportunity to build an appreciation for the arts."

He carried that new energy with him recently as he worked on a new sculpture carved out of a rare piece of rock.

"The source of the rock is exhausted and I got one last piece," he said. "It is a beautiful, yellow golden color."

After studying it for several days, his idea emerged. He is carving two eagles, a crow, and a crane out of the 80-pound rock. And when he is done, he will turn to another project.

"I don't take breaks," he said. "I just want to keep producing sculpture after sculpture after sculpture."