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Creative in the Community: The Oneida Nation Arts Program

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The Oneida Nation Arts Program holds the Red Banks Native Art Show at the Premier in downtown Green Bay, Sat. Feb. 8, 2020 (WCWF/ Beni Petersen)

GREEN BAY (WCWF) --Green Bay is bursting with art and culture. One example is the Oneida Nation Arts Program, also known as ONAP.

ONAP held its first ever pop-up artists boutique featuring Native American artists. Titled the "Red Banks Native Art Show," it focuses on the Native American history of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

As one of the few tribal art agencies in the country, ONAP Community Coordinator Gabrielle Metoxen tells us how they're an important part of the community.

"We're always looking to find new ways of how we can better support the artists in our community... some artists are struggling with what does it really take to be an artist, and we're really looking to support them and build them up so they believe in themselves."

The pop-up Native art boutique took place in the Railyard District of downtown Green Bay at a newer facility, the non-profit organization called The Premier. Gabrielle tells us why they chose that location...

"We were looking at how could we help indigenize downtown Green Bay... there were trading posts in the East Green Bay area many years ago when the first settler came. We were looking at trying to re-ignite the idea that we could have those cultural exchanges again ...not necessarily through a trading post, but the pop-up market is kind of how that came to be."

The show is an opportunity for Native American artists to display and sell their hand-made works of art of all kinds.

"We have classes ranging from modern-contemporary art- to our traditional-contemporary art; such as pottery, silverware, basketry, as well as the Iroquois bead-work... and then we've expanded on the events we offer in the community and the surrounding area."

ONAP hopes to accomplish supporting their community of artists with helping them embrace and learn their art and culture, leading to events such as this one.

Gabrielle says, "Our goal with the Red Bank's Native Art Market, is to help build up the indigenous economies and as well help bridge the gap between communities and the cultures that call Green Bay home. So we're really trying to bring people together and share our culture."

ONAP hopes to flourish with master-artists in the community and within this region who will continue to teach and carry on the traditions in art and culture.

A lot of what ONAP is able to accomplish is due in-part from grants and funding courtesy of the Wisconsin Arts Board and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Oneida Multi-Media Artist, Stephenie Muscavitch VanEvery, tells us how she's seen ONAP apply that funding to the community and bring the artists to a better place, while broadening their audience.

"The arts program has a staff that really believes in encouraging the artists, and asking us what we need, and trying to figure out a way to bring that to us."

Stephenie shares why she believes programs like this are important.

"Remembering Native American culture and arts is important, in fact it's important for anybody to know their own culture- because it's empowering. It helps us to be a stronger person now, when we remember where we came from- and that's across cultures, that's anybody."

Due to different historical situations, information on Native American culture is no longer readily available, but as Stephenie tells me- there's opportunity to re-instate that through the arts.

"When you know who you are and you have a clear understanding that you belong, that's when you're able to be your best person- and you're able to impact your community, your family the best way that you can."

Stephenie says she loves all forms of art because, not only is it healing for her, but she feels it creates a gentle way to converse about culture and storytelling.

"I really find when you have a piece of artwork and a listening ear, that you can share so much about history and also kind of form friendships and family bonds with people."

Gabrielle says the pop-up art show had a good turn out with people appreciating the art and shopping local, coming from all demographics and cultural backgrounds.

"I think it's been a great turn out at re-igniting that cultural exchange between the communities and who all call this place home."

The Oneida Nation Arts Program hosts numerous events, classes and camps throughout the year. For more information, head to their website, oneidanationarts.org.

And for everything CW and more, including my 5 things to do this weekend, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BeniPetersenTV.

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