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New Permanent Exhibit at Bardo Arts Center Explores Cherokee Culture

Cherokee syllabary in the Bardo Arts Center lobby

The Cherokee Preservation Foundation has awarded an $88,050 grant to the WCU Bardo Arts Center (BAC) to support a permanent interpretive exhibit on Cherokee language and culture. The exhibit and correlated programming will be developed in collaboration with members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).

BAC opened its doors in 2005 with Cherokee-inspired designs and bilingual signage in English and Cherokee syllabary throughout the building, but there is currently no permanent signage to explain the connection and significance of these design elements. “This project goes beyond the existing bilingual signage and other architectural elements in the building to contextualize this site, Western Carolina University, as both an important ancestral homeland of the Cherokee people and our role as a current site that highlights vibrant contemporary Cherokee arts and culture,” says Denise Drury Homewood, executive director of BAC. “This project will commission artwork and designs from EBCI artists to include in the exhibit throughout the building, and include audio and video recordings of intergenerational Cherokee speakers talking about their culture and the significance of this place.”

Cherokee signage at the Bardo Arts Center

The total project cost is currently around $145,497. The project is expected to be complete by spring of 2022. In addition to contributions from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the exhibit is supported by WCU’s Cherokee Studies Program, the WCU Cherokee Center and Bardo Arts Center. “WCU sits on a portion of the sacred homelands of the EBCI and we are so happy that they share this land with our students, faculty and staff,” says Sky Sampson, director of the WCU Cherokee Center. “It is our duty as an educational institution to share that information with the public. With this grant and current project upgrade, visitors from all over will be able to see clearly what this exhibit represents for our tribe in addition to educating people about our special partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”

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