ROCK SPRINGS — A community celebration titled “Eye of a Nation: a Celebration of Heritage” of the visual and performing arts is underway this fall to recognize the significance of Edward Curtis’ work and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
In 2017-2018, the Buffalo Bill Center for the West is celebrating its first 100 years with a traveling exhibition of Edward Curtis photographs in libraries throughout Wyoming. In November and December of 2017, this display will be available for Sweetwater County residents and visitors at the Community Fine Arts Center, a department of the Sweetwater County Library System.
In the early 1900s, the American financier and banker J. P. Morgan financed a project to produce a series on Native Americans. This work was to be in 20 volumes with 1,500 photographs. Curtis was the photographer and hired several employees to aid in writing and recording Native American languages, and an anthropologist who studied many of the tribes in the west.
Curtis’s goal was not just to photograph but to document as much of Native American traditional life as possible before that way of life disappeared. He wrote in the introduction to his first volume in 1907, “The information that is to be gathered … respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost.”
“Eye of a Nation: a Celebration of Heritage” is a series of events including additional exhibitions of arts and photography, a documentary film about Curtis, a book discussion regarding a biography of Curtis and performing arts of local Tribes. These events have the support of local cultural organizations including the CFAC, Western Wyoming Community College Hay Library and Cultural Affairs Committee, Downtown Rock Springs, and the Sweetwater County Library System.
The calendar of events actually began in September with the Northern Arapaho Artists Exhibition titled “Indigenous Images” at the White Mountain Library. This display of five artist will be up until the end of October.
Through the WWCC Cultural Affairs Committee and Hay Library, copies of the book by Timothy Egan “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis” are available to read. Two opportunities to attend a book discussion led by WWCC English Professor Barbara Smith will be at WWCC on November 1 at 6p.m. and at the Community Fine Arts Center on November 8 at 7 p.m..
The annual Community Show at the CFAC in October, is a display of local artists’ works under the theme of “Our Cultural Heritage”.
Rock Springs Historical Museum new director Jennifer Messer is working on a display of cameras from over the last century which will be ready for viewing by the end of October.
The Edward Curtis Photography exhibit opens at the CFAC on November 8 with the opening reception the next evening from 5 to 7 p.m.
November marks Native American Heritage Month and as part of this effort, artifact trunks from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West outreach materials department will be on display with the Curtis exhibit with school tours being offer in November and December.
On November 17, a documentary film regarding Edward Curtis will be shown at the Broadway Theater with a reception prior to the viewing.
Other events are in the planning stages and will be announced as information is finalized.
In addition, the public is encouraged to visit both the Sweetwater County Museum and Rock Springs Historical Museum to see displays about our local history and artifacts about our western heritage.
Support has been received from the Wyoming Community Foundation Samuels’ Fund and the WWCC Cultural Affairs Committee, Sweetwater BOCES, CFAC and the Sweetwater County Library System. All of these events will be provided to the public free of charge.
For more information, contact Debora Soule at the CFAC.