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LNI Art Show highlights student artists and attracts Interior Secretary Haaland for a visit

The attached audio is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment.

Hundreds of students from across Indian Country are showcasing their abilities in a variety of mediums from traditional to contemporary at the Lakota National Invitational Art Show in Rapid City, one of the biggest high school art shows in the state.

The art show gives students an opportunity for exposure — and, since it’s a juried contest, constructive criticism. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the art show Friday and met with some of the student artists, coordinators and LNI board members.

Artist Kylie Wanatee, a senior at St. Francis Indian School on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, was the best in show winner for the 2019 LNI art show.

“I believe it's important, the exposure, seeing what all these kids from all these different counties and schools are doing and what their part is in preserving Native American culture or just showing the world that we have skills here on these reservations,” said Wanatee.

Wanatee helped curate and hang all the artwork at this year’s art show. She also participated and hopes that people who view her artwork can see what she sees when she puts paint to canvas.

“I wanted people to see that,” said Wanatee, “kind of like my vision almost. I wanted to express that. I know my paintings can be interpreted in a lot of ways, and I just want people to feel that, too. I want them to see that and feel what I'm feeling and experience what I experience.”

Scott Fishel is an art instructor at St. Francis Indian School and coordinator for the art show. He views the art show as a way for student artists to learn that art is a viable career option.

“This is an opportunity for our kids to see that you can make a living, you can survive doing this," said Fishel. "I love watching the people coming into the show, and to see a student come in and race across the room to their piece that's on display. It's hard not to get emotional seeing something like that — the excitement of seeing their artwork for the world to see, and to be appreciated.”

Lakota Nation Invitational offers a variety of competitions for students to be in an inclusive environment that tests them physically, mentally and constructively.

“We're the mind, body, and spirit,” said Wanatee. “It's essential to express all those things so we're understood as a whole human instead of just these romantic pictures of buckskins and tipis. But we're also not these beast basketball players, because we're also these really smart kids. There's Knowledge Bowl and Language Bowl. That's how we're whole as a tribe. We're the mind, body, and spirit. This is what ties those elements together here at LNI. It's amazing.”

The judging of the Lakota Nation Invitational High School Art Show concludes Friday evening. This year is extra special because of a new award called the “Living Treasure of the Lakota Nation.” This award will be given to Don Montileaux for his vast contribution of work preserving and maintaining Lakota art over the years.

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