Rise, Loss and Revival

TMA Announces Summer Lecture Series II


July 12, 2010 (TYLER, TX) – A once-lost art form will be the topic of discussion during the second installment of the Tyler Museum of Art’s Summer Lecture Series on Thursday, July 29, when artist Martha Berry presents her lecture titled “The Rise, Loss, and Revival of Traditional Cherokee Beadwork.” The lecture will be held in the TMA Classroom and will elaborate upon themes and information presented in the current exhibition Cherokee Beadwork: Finding a Lost Art on view now through August 15, 2010 in the Museum’s Bell Gallery.

The lecture will be presented, free of charge, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. and participants are asked to call 903.595.1001 to reserve their seat. “My lecture will feature many images of both historic Cherokee beaded artifacts and also contemporary Cherokee revival beadwork,” says Mrs. Berry. She plans on telling the story of a beautiful art form that once was lost, examining why it was lost, and also discussing how the art form is being revived today.

Mrs. Berry, a Cherokee descendant, is a central figure to the revival of this art form, which was nearly lost due in large part to the violent deracination of the Cherokee Indian known by many as the “Trail of Tears.” Called the “Indian Removal Act,” this part of U.S. government policy was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830. Although so-called Indian Removal Act was supposed to be voluntary, it paved the way for the reluctant—and often forcible—emigration of tens of thousands of American Indians to the West. The Cherokee people called this journey the “Trail of Tears,” because of its devastating effects. The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the march. Over 4,000 out of 15,000 of the Cherokees died, and with their passage, much of the people’s history and culture was all but lost. Through her research and art works, Mrs. Berry seeks to not only tell the story of the Cherokee people, but also to feature the artistry that was unique to this people.

Cherokee Beadwork: Finding a Lost Art showcases work by a total of 14 artists including Mrs. Berry, who became interested in Cherokee beadwork when she first attempted to discover information about her own Cherokee heritage. “I thought that if I could make something that they had made, making all those hundreds of little decisions in the process of creating a piece of art, that it would somehow bring me closer to them,” she said. When Mrs. Berry began to look for information about beadwork, however, there was none to be found. “Although I had seen photographs of historical Cherokee beadwork, I could find no teachers, books, instructions or kits for that unique beadwork,” she said. “So I began collecting photographs of the artifacts and learned to bead from the photos.” Mrs. Berry went on to receive a grant to travel to Washington, D.C. to study the Cherokee beadwork in the Smithsonian Institution collection. “I began this journey nearly twenty years ago and, happily, I have been able to feel that connection with my Cherokee grandmothers in a very profound way.”

During her lecture at the TMA, Mrs. Berry will talk about how and why this art form has not only survived, but also has begun to gain significant support. “Since the early 1990s, there has been a growing interest among Native people to preserve and perpetuate our cultures,” she said. Research and scholarly efforts made by Mrs. Berry and others like her have cultivated a growing body of information about the Cherokee people. “There are over 250,000 federally recognized Cherokee Nation citizens,” she said. “That is a large market for beadwork and other Cherokee specific history, language, art, clothing, movies and cooking.” Corporate Member Sponsor for Cherokee Beadwork: Finding a Lost Art is Hibbs-Hallmark Company. Also on view in the Bell Gallery is The American Indian through the Eyes of Edward S. Curtis, presented with support from Collectors’ Circle Member Sponsor, Jean and Graham Devoe Williford Charitable Trust. Both exhibitions are presented free to the public now through August 15, 2010.

The Tyler Museum of Art, accredited by the American Association of Museums, is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave., adjacent to the Tyler Junior College campus off East Fifth Street. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. (The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.) Lunch is available in the Museum Café from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and the TMA Gift Shop is open during Museum hours. For more information, call (903) 595-1001 or visit www.tylermuseum.org.