From: Kevan Nitzberg
<< we recently had a meeting to address
concerns that had been brought forward by a representative from a local
Native American group regarding the creation of artifacts representing
aspects of Native American religious beliefs in the artroom
the middle school level), that were found to be offensive by this group.
This included sand paintings, some masks, katchina dolls, and totems.
the intent was to share and expose students to Native American cultures
through the creation of these artifacts as art projects, the effect in
cases was to cause some serious although unintended pain and anger.>>
Kevan: thank you for one of the finest, most thoughtful posts ever put
on the Getty. Thank you for your clear thinking and writing. I work
in a system where M.S. has students make grocery bag ''gift shoppe''
type moccasins in art class to learn about Native Americans. Makes me
crazy. I ask my undergraduates at a local Catholic college (preparing
to be elementary classroom teachers) if they would consider having
their second graders create toilet paper tube crucifixes...and they are
An extended essay on respectful and creative ways to approach the art
of ancient and diverse peoples can be found in Peter London's iconic NO
MORE SECONDHAND ART in the opening chapters. He discusses such issues
as meaning as opposed to beauty as a goal of art...and the fact that
beauty was in the service of power. 'Can a people as devoid of
spiritual imaginationand experience as we are ever know about the
original purposes of artifacts made by people for whom the whole
universe was/is sacred? We turn amulets into trinkets, powerful
medicine into 'collectables,' holy myths into quaint folk-tales. We
marvel at the care and dexterity, the tastefulness exhibited in the
artifacts of ancient and primal artisans...for the primal image-maker,
craft was not in the service of beauty in an of itself. Instead craft
was in the service of power. The more carefully wrought the object
was, the more powerfully the object would serve as an instrument of
NO MORE SECONDHAND ART, pp 8,9 Shambalah Publications, 1989.
Thanks again for keeping us thinking