Three artists in Seattle are making a serious mark on their communities. Elizabeth Woody (Navajo/Warm Springs/Yakama) is Oregon’s new poet laureate. Louie Gong (Nooksack) is opening a Native art store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market this July and Essayist Elissa Washuta (Cowlitz) is a recipient of a $25,000 Artist Trust 2016 Arts Innovator Award.
Here are the details:
Oregon’s new poet laureate
Appointed by Governor Kate Brown to a two-year term, Elizabeth Woody is Oregon’s new poet laureate.
“The energy of Elizabeth Woody’s words bring to life the landscapes, creatures and people who make Oregon special,” Brown said. “As poet laureate, she will be a great asset to our state, using vivid storytelling to help us understand who we are as a larger community.”
Each poet laureate – Woody is Oregon’s eighth — fosters appreciation of the art of poetry, encourages learning and literacy, and addresses issues related to heritage and humanities. Woody will provide between six and 20 public readings per year to promote the importance and value of poetry and creative expression.
Woody was born in Navajo country in Ganado, Arizona, but has made her home in Oregon for most of her life. She is enrolled at the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and is a niece of noted Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama artist Lillian Pitt. Like her aunt, Woody is also a visual artist.
She is the author of four books of poetry and has contributed to 28 anthologies. She is featured in “Notable Native Americans” (Gale Research) and “The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters.
Woody said of the position of poet laureate: “The power of language in poetry, song, story and legacy has kept Oregon’s communities vibrant. The literature of this land is the sound of multiple hearts and the breath of many listened to while forming as individuals in this world. It is an honor to be Oregon’s poet to serve our state’s communities in the next two years and reflect upon their strength.”
Woody was a founding board member of Soapstone, an organization dedicated to supporting women writers; and a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, a national organization headquartered in Vancouver, Washington. She served as a program officer for the Meyer Memorial Trust from 2012-15.
VIDEO: Elizabeth Woody: “New Poets of the American West”
A Native art store in Pike Place Market
As the founder of Eighth Generation, a Native-owned and operated company based in Seattle Washington, Louie Gong is opening a Native art store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market this July.
In 2015, Eighth Generation became the first Native American-owned company to create and offer wool blankets designed by Native artists. Five percent of all sales support Eighth Generation’s Inspired Natives Grant, which is administered by The Evergreen State College Longhouse.
In March, Eighth Generation began collaborating with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi on a blanket that, according to Pokagon Band education director Sam Morseau, “encapsulates the traditions, culture, and sovereignty of a proud nation. The result is something that future generations will be excited to receive in honor of their educational achievements.” Sarah Agaton Howes, Anishinaabe, is providing design support on the project.
According to his website, Gong is widely known for merging traditional Coast Salish art with influences from his urban environment, having started customizing shoes in his living room.
VIDEO Blanket Design Process
$25,000 Artist Trust 2016 Arts Innovator Award
Funded by The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation, essayist Elissa Washuta, Cowlitz, is a recipient of a $25,000 Artist Trust 2016 Arts Innovator Award. She will use the funds to “create new work, experiment with new ideas, take risks, and push the boundaries” in her field.
Washuta is the author of two books, “Starvation Mode” and “My Body Is a Book of Rules,” and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Chronicle of Higher Education and BuzzFeed.
Washuta earned an MFA at the University of Washington, and serves as the undergraduate adviser for the university’s Department of American Indian Studies. She is teaches nonfiction in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is faculty adviser for Mud City Journal, and Saturday editor for The Rumpus.
“When I began writing personal essays, I made a decision to let my work be as weird as it needed to be, knowing there was a chance that I would never be able to reach wider audiences,” Washuta said in an announcement of her award. She thanked Artist Trust for “valuing my weirdness, for having faith in my risk-taking, and for giving me the freedom to do the only creative work I want to do.”
VIDEO: IAIA MFA non-fiction faculty Elissa Washuta (Cowlitz) gives a reading at the 2015 MFA Residency. Watch Here.
Artist Trust (www.artisttrust.org) has invested more than $10 million in Washington State artists since its founding in 1986, through grant programs and direct support.