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  • At a very young age, i was drawn to the art. In second grade that was when I knew I was giong to be an artist. Through grade and high school I was ecnouraged by my art teacher to come before, at lunch and after school to draw, paint, whatever I wanted to do. I wanted to go to college on an athletic scholarship and that didn't work out. I joined the Marine Corps 3 weeks after high school, I was at MCRD in San Diego for boot camp. After my tour I still had a dream about going to college. So I started college at Black Hills State College, thought I was going to be a PE teacher. I took a drawing class as an elective. It started my passion in art again. While I was still a freshman, I transferred to the INstitute of Indian Arts in Santa Fe. After I graduated from I moved back to South Dakota. I started at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion with a BFA, I really wanted to get a Master of Fine Arts at USD. I was denied because they don't take any student from a BFA program into the MFA program. I did my research and I found out that they were lying to me. I was angry and I tried to take on the whole art department at USD. I did however, get a Masters in interdisciplinary studies. I worked at Porcupine year round school for five months, making $7 an hour with a Masters degree. I was really angry at that. I met my wife who was going to the University of Oklahoma and we talked about it, and we said let's do it, and go together and both get degrees from University of Oklahoma.

    I worked the Oscar House Summer Art Institute [for Native American students] at USD encountering racism and the reason I quit was the full time faculty stole all our supplies. When I started there, I was just a helper, then I took over the painting department, then I was the coordinator, then I moved up to director. At the end of my 8 years with USD, we were bringing in college students for college credits from all over. When we noticed all of our supplies were gone, it made it that much more difficult for those last two weeks.

    The whole thing with art is that more and more young artists are going out of high school in to art schools. Years ago, people were just on their own, self taught. The work wasn't very good, because the technique wasn't there and the materials weren't that good, because no one knew what they were doing. What I wanted to do as an artist, and not necessarily a Native or Indian artist was to have shows, nationally and internationally. I wanted art to be the most important thing, not the national origin of a person. Once you say "Native American" everyone assumes you're going to paint a an Indian on a horseback or a teepee. So when they assume you are just painting an Indian on a horseback, they feel like your education level is very low, and the work isn't very good. So, you really don't get in to shows because of the association with being an Native American artist.

    So I went out and got all the education I could, my goal was to come and teach the next generation of artists. We need to move beyond buckskin and beads, the intellectual art is seen on the national and international level and people pay more for that type of work. It angers me when we have shows like "Prix de West" where non-Native painters and sculptors paint and sculpt Indians, historical figures, and get hundreds of thousands of dollars for them when Native artists portray their own culture, we don't get the money that the non-Native artists do.

    I am currently working at Oglala Lakota College and am building the art program from the ground up. We started with 2 students, now we have over 40 in the program. The interest is there and the facilities will be there in the future.
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