Crisp-Ellert Art Museum exhibit spotlights American Indian imprisonment at St. Augustine fort
By Bobbie Stewart
A new exhibit at Flagler College's Crisp-Ellert Art Museum “Re-Riding History: From the Southern Plains to the Matanzas Bay” casts light on a long-neglected historical narrative: American Indians who were imprisoned between 1875-1878 in St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos.
The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 28.
The story, often overshadowed by other chronicled events — from Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida to the civil rights movement — takes center stage in the campus museum and during an all-day symposium, on Feb. 12 in the Virginia Room of the Ringhaver Student Center. The exhibit is presented in partnership with St. Augustine’s 450th Commemoration.
“This is a contemporary response to an historical experience, held intact in American Indian communities through oral tradition and art today,” said Julie Dickover, the director of the Crisp-Ellert. “It’s not just a staid historical exhibition where you’re sharing facts everybody already knows. It is this whole other perspective on these events — some artists are American Indians, some aren’t, some had relatives imprisoned there … this is their history.”
As part of the project, 72 native and non-native artists created sketches using various printmaking methods as a response to the authentic ledger-paper sketches drawn by 72 imprisoned American Indians. The prisoners, forcibly removed from their homes in Oklahoma and brought by rail to what was then Fort Marion, were leaders of Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, Caddo and Chiracahua Apache tribes.
Artists were provided with images of the original sketches and asked to consider three things in their artistic process: particular prisoners, art historically and the topography of the landscape prisoners traversed. The result is a collection of reinterpreted expressions reflecting the past in the memories of the actual event and the present through the artists’ current experience.
“Memory and alternative temporalities have conspired to make this history present and alive,” said exhibit artist Nancy Marie Mithlo.
Flagler history major Kayla Cuevas conducted research on American Indians' imprisonment for a separate exhibit in the Proctor Library atrium, and found that ledger drawings were "the best representation of what the time at the Castillo was like."
"People should visit this exhibit because it gives light to an under-represented aspect of the history of St. Augustine," she said.
The 72 prisoners on which the exhibit is based represent only a fraction of the several hundred American Indians held at Fort Marion.
The day-long symposium, held on Feb. 12 and free and open to the public, will feature nine artists exploring the world of contemporary native art and discussing select works from the exhibit, the cultural context of the artists, as well as the curatorial process. The symposium is supported through a grant from The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.
“Re-Riding History: From the Southern Plains to the Matanzas Bay” was curated by Emily Arthur, Marwin Begaye and John Hitchcock — all artists and professors from around the country.
To see a gallery of art featured in the exhibit, click here
For more information, visit www.reridinghistory.org.