Revitalizing Heritage, Cultivating Artistry
October 12, 2023

Revitalizing Heritage, Cultivating Artistry

Inaugural year of OLA Artist-in-Residence program amplifies Oglala Lakota Culture

In the heart of Oglala Lakota territory

A visionary project is opening that promises to breathe new life into the artistry of the Oglala Lakota people. The Oglala Lakota Artspace Artist-in-Residence (OLA AIR) Program has unveiled its inaugural year, a groundbreaking initiative aimed at providing a nurturing and empowering environment for Oglala Lakota artists to showcase their talents, explore new horizons, and contribute to the rich tapestry of indigenous artscape.

Leading the charge in the initiative is Leslie Mesteth, the Associate Director of the Oglala Lakota Artspace. Leslie's passion for preserving and promoting Lakota artistry, historically and contemporarily, has been a driving force behind the conception and execution of this program.

“When you look back historically, a lot of artists had to leave the reservation to get their work noticed or promote their work outside of the reservation and, and create space for themselves as artists”

At its core, this program celebrates artistic heritage and is an incubator for contemporary expression deeply rooted in the Lakota culture. Residencies, extending from two to six weeks in 2023, provide a comprehensive support system for artists, including living accommodations, a food stipend, a dedicated workspace, a material stipend, and transportation to and from the residency space. This initiative offers artists uninterrupted time, allowing them to concentrate solely on their creative practice.

“Giving them [the artists] that space to kind of not only share what they know, as cultural barriers but also going out into the community… Getting back that knowledge of this is how it is today, to be back on the reservation, because a lot of them live off the reservation. So they were all really excited to come back and just be with family”

In announcing the talented artists selected for this year's residency, OLA, under Leslie's guidance, is proud to present a group that truly embodies the spirit and creativity of the Oglala Lakota community. Each artist brings a unique perspective and artistic style to the residency, promising a dynamic and engaging experience for both the creators and the community.

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OLA Artist-in-Residence, Nathan Ruleaux, shares some of the creative outcomes of his residency period. His paintings are inspired by ties to the community, land, landmarks, and family history.

The roster of artists for the 2023 OLA AiR program is impressive and diverse. It includes:

Arthur Shortbull, Lakota Kikyo, William Underbaggage, Nathan Ruleaux, Leah Altman

The walls of OLA bear witness to their journey—a journey that merges the historical with the contemporary, the traditional with the innovative, forming an intricate mosaic that tells a story beyond words.

These artists venture into the community within the residency, sharing their gifts and fostering collaborations. Workshops, exhibitions, and performances become their medium, connecting hearts and minds and bridging the gap between the artists and the community that welcomes them.

“They [the artists] have to do a community event, or they share their work with the community, or they could even do a workshop and bring all the supplies and then teach their methods”

As the residency is in the middle of its year, the artists leave behind not just their finished works but a legacy—an indelible mark of Lakota artistry and the promise of a vibrant future where tradition and creativity dance in harmonious celebration.

The Oglala Lakota Artspace Artist-in-Residence Program has sown seeds of creativity of a renewed Lakota artistic identity, embracing the continuum of art, bridging generations, and lighting the path for many more to follow. The journey has just begun, and the future is ablaze with the brilliance of Lakota creativity.

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A sampling of some of the artwork created by OLA Artist-in-Residence, Nathan Ruleaux, during his residency at the Oglala Lakota Artspace.
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