Communities Visual Arts

Bardo Arts Center’s Southeastern Indian Art Exhibition

Petition. Joseph Erb, artist

Through December 8, an art exhibition titled, Return from Exile: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art will be on display in the Western Carolina University (WCU) Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center in Cullowhee. The exhibition features the work of more than 30 contemporary southeastern Native American artists in a variety of media including painting, drawing, printmaking, basketry, sculpture and pottery.

Curated by Tony A. Tiger, Bobby C. Martin and Jace Weaver, Return from Exile is one of the first major exhibitions to focus on contemporary artists from tribal nations with an historical connection to the southeastern United States. These include the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (or Creek) and Seminole tribes, all of whom were forcibly removed to present-day Oklahoma as a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

The Return From Exile: Southeastern Contemporary Indian Art exhibit has brought new awareness about a portion of America’s history: the removal of American Indian peoples of the southeast United States,” says Tiger. “With their art, these descendants share the stories of removal, return and resilience. In a unified voice, the Return from Exile artists declare, ‘We still exist and we will remain.’”

On Friday, November 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the WCU Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center will host a Contemporary Native American Art Symposium. The event will be followed by a reception from 5–7 p.m. honoring the Return from Exile exhibition. At 7:30 p.m., Canadian First Nation electronic music group A Tribe Called Red will perform.

“As a co-curator of Return from Exile, my primary goal from the beginning of this project has been to introduce audiences unfamiliar with the histories and stories of Southeastern Native tribes to the powerful work of our tribal artists,” says Martin. “As the title Return from Exile suggests, I wanted to bring this important artwork back to its historic homelands in the southeast. Western North Carolina University, with roots tied deeply to the Eastern Cherokee, is a significant link in that return. I hope that the exhibition and surrounding activities at WCU can benefit local communities by presenting artwork relevant to the Cullowhee area history and the artistic responses to those events that show the resilience of our tribal peoples.”

Return from Exile is supported by the WCU Campus Theme Committee as a signature event of the year-long theme titled “Cherokee: Community, Culture, Connections.” Bringing Return from Exile to the Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center and reprinting the catalogue has been made possible through a number of generous sponsors. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks also to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and The Sequoyah Fund.

Bardo Arts Center is at 199 Centennial Drive in Cullowhee. For more information about the symposium and exhibition, visit

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