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Minnesota Native News

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Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


Manidoominens: Still Beading After 10,000 Years

Marie: This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock. Coming up…

A beadwork art exhibit in Duluth goes virtual…

Here’s reporter Leah Lemm with the story….


Reporter: During a year of many adjustments, including live virtual music events, working from home, schools online…. art exhibits have found a home on the web as well.

Ivy Vainio: My name is Ivy Vainio. I am a direct descendant of the grand Portage band of Ojibwe in Northern Minnesota up the North shore. We knew this was going to be the art show of the year of the century, as I always say. But since Covid hit and we can't have anybody come in, we decided to create a online virtual 3d gallery of the gallery with all of the work.

Reporter: Ivy Vainio coordinates the cultural art gallery program among many other things at AICHO.

MANIDOOMINENS: STILL BEADING AFTER 10,000 YEARS is an exhibit that has been a year in the making, and as with most events, it had to be re-thought out and adjusted for life in the pandemic.

Ivy Vainio: So when artists came in to drop off their work for the show, I'm a photographer. So I took a picture of each of the pieces and I, um, was able to go into, um, it's called art, and it's a free virtual create your own virtual gallery program.

It took me eight hours straight to put that show together. But once it's done, it's just amazing.

Reporter: In the virtual exhibit, you can go on a guided tour, scroll over one of the pieces and click on it. And it brings up a larger picture of the beadwork piece. More information also pops up about the artists, where they're tribally enrolled and a description of the work.

And it’s all laid out virtually, as it’s laid out physically in the space.

Ivy Vainio: so it's just a really cool, um, second best option for seeing it in person.

Reporter: And that’s how we’ll need to enjoy the exhibit for now. The gallery at the Dr Robert Powless Cultural Center in AICHO isn’t a standalone gallery. It’s in the same location at housing and offices, so right now the online experience is the safest route for everyone.

Wendy Savage is the curator for the art exhibit MANIDOOMINENS: STILL BEADING AFTER 10,000 YEARS. Wendy has been an artist for over 40 years and has been beading since she was 17.

Wendy Savage: I'm Wendy Savage. I'm an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe Lake superior band, uh, fond black reservation.

Wendy Savage: The title of the show is, uh, the Ojibwe word for, uh, beads and it's MANIDOOMINENS, which means tiny spirit berry. And the 10,000 years came from an article that I saw years ago when I was in Santa Fe at the Indian market, there was a woman who wrote something about that we've really been beating for 10,000 years.

Reporter: 10,000 years is a surprise to some, as the history of seed beads doesn’t stretch that far back.

Wendy Savage: We didn't have seed beads back then, but we didn't need seed beads because beads are made from different things. They were made from coral. They were made from shell. They were made from clay. They were made from stone. They were made from bones and horns and talon and beak and teeth. And then semi-precious gems of gold, silver, and copper.

We have always highly, highly decorated ourselves. And, uh, I think we need to know that we have been beading for 10,000 years.

Reporter: There are several styles of beadwork in the exhibit.

Wendy Savage: We have about four or five pouches beaded pouches that are, that are in the exhibition.

Reporter: There are also flat beaded pieces, many that may be incorporated into other works after the exhibit.

Ivy describes a multi-media piece that’s on display from a young person from Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe.

Ivy Vainio: It’s nothing like you'll ever see. He put LED lights into this piece and coded it to where it would light up different spots. It's a multi multimedia piece. He watercolored the back ground. And then on the top is a, uh, fully beaded, um, layered, uh, Thunderbird and the, the what's the water creature. Oh, it's the underwater pants or Mishy pest shoe. Yes. And that is, uh, also fully beaded and that's on the bottom. And then right in the middle is the Corona virus. And they're both battling COVID virus to keep us all safe.

Reporter: MANIDOOMINENS: STILL BEADING AFTER 10,000 YEARS is funded in part by a grant from Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.

Link to the virtual exhibit can be found at the American Indian Community Housing Organization website. Aicho DOT ORG. And head over to the art exhibit page. That’s A-I-C-H-O DOT ORG.

For MN Native News, I’m Leah Lemm.

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