Program Stories

Educating the next generation of Indigenous artists with a story from grantee partner University of South Dakota – Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute

In June of 2021, high school students with a demonstrated interest in the visual arts and American Indian culture studied with professional artists at USD in the 2021 Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute (OHSAI).

OHSAI honors longtime University of South Dakota professor and American Indian Northern Plains artist Oscar Howe by helping educate the next generation of potential Native American artists. Howe established a summer art institute in the 1960s that provided instruction to avid students desiring to learn more about Native American art. Although this Institute only lasted a few years, the spirit inspired the current form of OHSAI. To date, the Institute has supported many students who have gone on to become professional artists.

The Institute provides workshops for a group of talented and committed high school art students to learn about contemporary Native American Fine Arts with a focus on Native American culture, history, and traditions. All courses are taught by accomplished professional artists and all students attend free of charge, including meals, housing, instruction, and art supplies. The 2021 instructors included Melanie Yazzie, Keith Braveheart, Henry Payer and Joe Williams.

Joe Williams’s talk provided insights on how young artists can pursue interests in the arts.

Students learned to draw the human figure from a variety of models, explored printmaking, and even took a trip to Omaha, NE to visit the Joslyn Art Museum, KANEKO, and Bemis Art Center. The Light Space gallery at KANEKO presented an interactive environmental experience.

The 2021 OHSAI ended Friday, June 18 with the student art exhibition and honor-ing ceremony. We thank everyone for their support for these amazing and inspir-ing young artists. We were excited to get back to helping students express their artistic visions. Thank you to the students for their hard work and resilience, the counselors for their guidance, and our instructors and speakers for fostering a creative and educational environment.

Cory Knedler is Chair of the Art Department at the University of South Dakota (USD) and sent email updates on the students’ activities throughout the 2021 Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute. Shared above is a compilation of those emails that has been edited for length and clarity.