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Lakota Artist At Smithsonian's NYC Native Art Market

Courtesy Kevin Pourier

A Lakota artist from the Pine Ridge Reservation is in New York City today to take part in the 2015 Native Art Market. The prestigious gathering brings together Native American artists from North, South and Central America at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center.

SDPB’s Jim Kent spoke to the artist and has this report.

Kevin Pourier is a self-taught artist who specializes in creating carved and inlaid buffalo horn spoons, cups and jewelry. Pourier says getting the opportunity to have his work on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center, in New York City, is a bit overwhelming.

Credit Courtesy Kevin Pourier
Swallowtail Necklace - created by Kevin Pourier (Inlaid with Gold Mother of Pearl and Lapis)

“I mean, it’s just unbelievable for me to think now that…I’m from Pine Ridge South Dakota…didn’t start art until I was 30…and now I’m in New York City doing a very prestigious art show with a bunch of the finest Native artists in the country,” explains Pourier.

Pourier is unlike many artists who knew what they wanted to do from childhood or began learning their craft from older family members.

“I started, basically, juts trial and error,” Pourier recalls. “Learning everything on my own…making an art form that no one else does in the country. So it’s really uncharted territory…what I’m doing and trying to get my art work out to the world.”

Shawn Termin is the museum’s Cultural Arts Manager. Termin says if you’re an artist trying to get your work out to the world New York is THE place to do it.

Credit Courtesy SNMAI

“It’s small because we only have a maximum of 38 artists,” Termin comments. “So it’s highly competitive to get into the market. And New York has a very unique community of people that are interested in Native art. So we have a really good attendance of collectors…galleries…and artists find it highly important to the development of their careers to make these connections in a city like New York City.”

Credit Courtesy Kevin Pourier
Horses on Thimble - created by Kevin Pourier

Termin adds that taking part in the Native Art Market is a tremendous opportunity for any artist…but especially for one from a rural area like South Dakota. 

“To be able to say that you displayed at the Smithsonian helps, I think,” explains Twermin. “Because it is America’s museum.”

Shawn Termin describes Kevin Pourier as an asset to the state of South Dakota.

“His work is exquisite,” observes Termin. “It’s amazingly creative. So…in my opinion…what an artist does from South Dakota…and Kevin…and being that he’s Lakota…he brings an understanding to the nation for South Dakota that there’s creativity happening up there.” 

Credit Courtesy Kevin Pourier
Lakota artist Kevin Pourier at work in his studio on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Criteria for determining which artists are invited to take part in the Native Art Market include quality, presentation and artist history. The annual event features a wide selection of items including handmade jewelry, beadwork, pottery, baskets, prints, paintings and sculptures.

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