Submitted by Wendy Kveck, Visiting Assistant Professor, the Department of Art

AH’-WAH-NEE Panel Discussion I at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, November 5, 2021. Photo credit Mikayla Whitmore.

Last Fall, Department of Art and the Donna Beam Gallery were honored to receive the support of a grant from the MSI Student Council, and are now pleased to share video the recently published documentation of the 2021 AH’-WAH-NEE Symposium Panels and Performance, filmed by the award-winning filmmaker Ben-Alex Dupris. 

AH’-WAH-NEE (Paiute for ‘balance’) was a momentous group exhibition and symposium celebrating the beauty of Indigeneity through the art of local and regional Native American women and non-binary artists holding space on the campus of UNLV, the traditional homelands of the Nuwuvi, Southern Paiute People. AH’-WAH-NEE was curated by Fawn Douglas, artivist, 2022 College of Fine Art’s Koep Dean’s Medal recipient and Spring 2022 Outstanding Graduate Student (MFA Art). Fawn is an Indigenous American artist, an enrolled member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, and co-founder of the Nuwu Art + Activism Studios in downtown Las Vegas. The goal at the heart of the AH’-WAH-NEE project, presented last Fall by the UNLV Department of Art, and supported, in part, by the College of Fine Arts and many local and regional partners, was to teach Indigenous histories and contemporary issues to UNLV students, faculty, staff, and the Las Vegas community while connecting and engaging with the regional tribes whose stories were told through art and conversation. 

“The voices of Indigenous women have always been valued amongst Indigenous communities,” Fawn Douglas said. “To share our words is a gift to those willing to listen. To share our stories through art is a gift from the spirit that will touch those willing to open their minds and hearts. AH’-WAH-NEE is our heart song.”

The AH’-WAH-NEE exhibition  was on view at the Donna Beam Gallery from November 1-December 10, 2021. The symposium events were presented November 4-5 and during the College of Fine Arts Annual Art Walk, when thousands of community visitors engaged with the college’s Fine Arts programming, artists, and art students. The Native American Alumni Club hosted a reception for AH’-WAH-NEE artists and partners at the TAM Alumni Center, where we were joined by President Keith Whitfield, Executive Vice Provost and Provost Chris Heavy and Special Liaison to the President, Juanita Fain. 

It was an honor to work with Ben-Alex Dupris, a director, writer, and producer who creates work that pushes the boundaries of Indigeneity beyond traditional pastoralism and into the grey areas of 21st century America. In addition to the video documentation of the symposium, the long anticipated AH’-WAH-NEE exhibition catalog, funded in part by the Nevada Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, has been published. The catalog features images of the exhibition, a curator’s essay by Fawn Douglas, and an essay by Dr. Erika Gisela Abad. 

We would like to thank MSISC, the College of Fine Arts, the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, the Paul Harris Theatre, and all of our AH’-WAH-NEE partners and collaborators for your generous support of this important and beautiful project. We encourage you to share the links to the videos of the panel discussion and performance with your students, colleagues and communities.

Links to all three November 5 AH’-WAH-NEE symposium events on the College of Fine Arts YouTube channel, here is the link. 

Panel I

A conversation with Paiute artists from the Great Basin region: Noelle Garcia, Loretta Burden, and Cara Romero. Moderated by Dr. Erika Gisela Abad. Introduction of AH’-WAH-NEE Exhibition & Symposium by Fawn Douglas. Welcome by Councilwoman Alfreda Mitre, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.

Panel II

A conversation with three multi-disciplinary artists who use sculpture and performance in cultural story-telling: Fawn Douglas, Natani Notah, and Rose B. Simpson. Moderated by Dr. Erika Gisela Abad. 

We Danced, We Sang, Until the Matron Came is the title of a painting by Jean LaMarr, a community artist-activist, printmaker and muralist of Paiute/Pit River ancestry with family ties to Northern Nevada and Northern California. This performance shines a light on the history and cultural impact of Native American Boarding Schools, presenting a talk by Stacey Montooth, Executive Director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission, accompanied by the art of Jean LaMarr and documentation of the Stewart Indian Boarding School, Southeast of Carson City, Nevada, culminating in a dance of resilience. Dancers: Kadie Ann Anderson (Fancy Shawl Dancer); Jared Chee-Anderson (Traditional Dancer); Sol Martinez (Jingle Dancer); and Gianna Yazzie (Fancy Shawl Dancer). This program was supported, in part, by WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation) and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

AH’-WAH-NEE artists:

  • Loretta Burden, a leader in basket weaving revival arts; she teaches traditional styles while subverting weaving techniques with modern materials.
  • Noelle Garcia, an artist and educator from the Klamath and Paiute tribes whose work focuses on themes of identity, family history, and recovered narratives.
  • Jean LaMarr, a community artist-activist, printmaker and muralist.
  • Melissa Melero-Moose, founder of the Great Basin Native Artists, who is influenced by imagery found in the Great Basin landscape, from petroglyphs to beadwork, and basketry.
  • Natani Notah, who makes work that centers her Diné (Navajo) identity with impactful narratives through performance and mixed media artwork.
  • Cara Romero, whose photography represents cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective. 
  • Rose B. Simpson, a mixed-media artist whose work engages ceramic sculpture, metals, fashion, performance, music, installation, writing, and custom cars. It is collected in museums across the continent and exhibited internationally.
  • Roxanne Swentzell, whose clay figures represent the complete spectrum of the human spirit portraying the balance of power between male and female.
  • Shelby Westika, whose digital paintings layer music, emotion, online worlds of video games, and their memories of performing in a Zuni Pueblo band.