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CEAM Presents Elisa Harkins' "Teach Me a Song"

Aug 31, 2023

The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum and Flagler College are pleased to present “Teach Me a Song,” an ongoing body of video, sculpture, and photography work from Tulsa-based artist Elisa Harkins.

The exhibition will kick off with a walkthrough led by the artist on Thursday, Sept. 7, followed by an opening reception until 7 p.m. Related programs include a performance by the artist, entitled “Wampum / ᎠᏕᎳ ᏗᎦᎫᏗ” on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Lewis Auditorium. Both the exhibition and performance are free and open to the public. 


In 2019, Harkins (Cherokee/Muscogee) began her project “Teach Me a Song” that draws on her long-time interest in translation and language preservation. This exhibition is an extension of Harkins’ larger body of work in which she uses Cherokee and Mvskoke languages, electronic music, sculpture, and the body as her tools. She is the first person to use Cherokee in a contemporary song. 


At the heart of the exhibition is a video which threads together a series of nine inter-tribal song exchanges, traversing musical genres. Harkins introduces viewers to ceremonial, religious, country, rock & roll, and electronic songs that are imparted with both personal and cultural significance.  


In addition to documenting the songs via audio and video, Harkins also transcribes and translates each song into sheet music. These will be exhibited alongside a photograph of each performer. A handmade shawl capturing the spirits of the performers and the songs themselves will also be featured.  


Songs featured in the exhibition include:  


“American Indian Movement (AIM) Song” by Louis Gray (Osage) 

“Dakota Prayer Song" by Eli Hirtle (Nêhiyah (Cree), British and German) 

“Thunderhawks Cry Too" by Cheyenne Rain LeGrande (Nehiyah Isko) 

“Mekusape Fullana” by Alice Sweat, Emma Fish, Vtvssv Lavatta, Jewel Lavatta, Reina Micco, and Rita Gopher (Seminole) 

“We Live in the Woods” by Agalisiga “Chuj” Mackey (Cherokee) 

“Spotted Bird” by Kayln Fay (Cherokee) 

“Grandmother’s Song” by The White Buffalo Singers (Blackfoot) 

“Hold Her Pillow Tight” by Marilyn Contois (Anishinaabe) 

“Greasewood Song” by Travis Mammedaty (Kiowa/Seneca-Cayuga). 



On Sept. 21, in conjunction with our exhibition, Harkins will perform “Wampum / ᎠᏕᎳ ᏗᎦᎫᏗ,” where the artist sings in a combination of Cherokee, English and Muscogee (Creek) to electronic dance music. This is partially inspired by sheet music of Indigenous music notated by Daniel Chazanoff during the 20th century.  


“Teach Me a Song” is organized in collaboration with The New Gallery at Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, Tenn.) where the exhibition will be on view from Oct. 30 through Dec. 8, 2023, and the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art, College of Charleston (Charleston, S.C.) where the exhibition will run in Spring 2024. 



About the Artist 


Over the past several years, Harkins created an online Indigenous concert series called “6 Moons” and published a CD of Creek/Seminole Hymns. She is the DJ of Mvhayv Radio, an Indigenous radio show on 91.1 FM in Tulsa, Okla. and 99.1 FM in Indianapolis, Ind. Radio III / ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ is a dance performance in collaboration with dancer Hanako Hoshimi-Caines and artist Zoë Poluch featuring music and choreography by Harkins. With support from PICA and Western Front, songs from the performance have been collected into a limited edition double-LP which can be found on Harkins’ Bandcamp.   


Harkins, who resides on the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, incorporates Indigenous language into each of her endeavors. She does this as an act of reclamation, a step towards decolonizing Indigenous musical traditions, and an attempt to alter the fate of these endangered languages. This mission is through active use, preservation on pressed vinyl, and radio play. 


She received her bachelor’s degree from Columbia College, Chicago and a Master of Fine Art from the California Institute of the Arts. She has since continued her education at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Harkins has exhibited her work at Crystal Bridges, documenta 14, The Hammer Museum, The Heard Museum, and Vancouver Art Gallery.  




This exhibition is supported, in part, by grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Dr. JoAnn Crisp-Ellert Fund at the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Teach Me a Song is sponsored by Music to Life's Musician Changemaker Accelerator (MCA), funded by the Mellon Foundation. 


The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum is an accessible building. If you are a person with a disability and need reasonable accommodation, please contact Phil Pownall at (904) 819-6460. Sign Language Interpreters are available upon request with a minimum of three days’ notice. 


For further information on our programming, please visit the website at, or contact Julie Dickover at (904) 826-8530 or The museum’s hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., while classes are in session.  

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