Durant museum showcases Native American art
DURANT, Okla. (KTEN) — A new museum located on the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University features an extensive exhibit of Native American art, a majority of which is created by tribal members.
The project started in 1992 when Southeastern Oklahoma State University was contacted by an art collector who had curated an assortment of Native American art and wanted to gift it to the university.
That collection was instead sold to another university, but four years later, another prospect came along.
"Mrs. Charles Hogan, who lived in Ardmore... Mrs. Hogan was so wonderful about coming forward and wanting to donate another collection of Native American art — not just Native American art, but Oklahoma Native American art," Janie Semple Umsted said. At the time, she worked for SOSU.
From the time that collection was donated in 1996, until October of this year, that art didn't have a permanent home. From time to time, it was displayed across campus at SOSU.
The Semples, a family with rich native history, took matters into their own hands.
"My grandfather was an original enrollee for the Choctaw Tribe; his great grandfather was Peter Pitchlynn who was a Chief for the Choctaws during the Civil War, his brother, William Finley Semple, was a Chief in the 1920s," Semple Umsted said. She's also an artist, and draws inspiration from her family's culture.
The Semple Family Museum of Native American Art opened earlier this fall. It was funded by the Semple family, gifted to SOSU, and is now home to more than 150 pieces of art created by 80 different artists. A majority of whom are tribal members.
"We need to do a better job at our university of telling that story, telling who we are and our connection to Native Americans and the fact that we are a Native American-serving institution, so this is the foundational place for that," said SOSU President Dr. Thomas Newsom.
To be a Native American-Serving Non-Tribal Institution, more than 10 percent of its undergraduate students must be Native American.
At SOSU, 33 percent of undergraduate students are members of a tribal nation.
"Watching what happens when students would come through and recognize their individual tribes in this collection, it just always thrills me when that happens," Semple Unstead said. She now serves as curator for the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art.
The museum is free and open to the public, and does have plans grow its collection.