The Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison will host the opening reception for “Ho-Chunk Art: Sharing our Sacred Voice through our Art” in the Playhouse Gallery on Friday, Nov. 1.
“We wanted to show a spectrum of experiences,” Exhibition Curator Melanie Tallmadge Sainz said.
The reception will showcase the pageantry of the Ho-Chunk culture with exhibition dances by The Wisconsin Dells Singers and Dancers celebrating the beauty of Ho-Chunk people while guests enjoy indigenous hors d’oeuvres prepared by Wild Bearies Catering from 6-8 p.m. The exhibition will feature pieces from about 15 Ho-Chunk artists currently living in Wisconsin or residing elsewhere.
Sainz, the founder and director of the Little Eagle Arts Foundation (LEAF), feels grateful to bring together an exhibition highlighting the artistic contributions of Ho-Chunk people. Through her capacity as LEAF Director, she oversees numerous cultural arts education programs in Wisconsin Dells, Baraboo, Adams-Friendship, Reedsburg, and Madison area. These programs help Indigenous artists develop their careers.
“I’ve been around art my whole life. My parents ran the Winnebago Museum in the Dells,” Sainz said.
The Winnebago Indian Museum remained open from 1953 up until about 2000. Sainz’s mother, Bernadine Tallmadge, who passed away about three years ago, donated the vacant museum and its art collection to LEAF, named after her father Roger Little Eagle Tallmadge. Sainz also works professionally as a full-time artist and is currently working on her craft in a studio on the West Coast but does many things.
She has a deep respect for her people and their commitment to the land where the state of Wisconsin resides. Even after being forced out, she said the Ho-Chunk people returned each time. Sainz said she and other Ho-Chunk people believe they were created in Wisconsin.
“As a people, we’ve always called ourselves Ho-Chunk which means ‘people of the big voice,’” she said.
Sainz said it’s important for communities to acknowledge the land on their own. She wants visitors of the gallery to feel grounded on the land. Sainz also made sure to honor elders of the community, elders and veterans receive the highest respect.
The opening reception and exhibition will honor the late Artist Harry Whitehorse and Sculptor Truman Lowe who both made many contributions to the artists community in Madison. Whitehorse displayed his closeness to wildlife and his Ho-Chunk heritage in intricate carvings as well as metal sculptures. His Bronz Badger was installed across from Camp Randall. Lowe, Sainz uncle, was a professor of fine art at the University of Wisconsin and curator of contemporary art at the National Museum of the American Indian.
“I was adamant about extending an invitation to their family members,” Sainz said.
She said she hopes people will have the opportunity to witness the broad perspectives of Ho-Chunk artists. Some of the artists have never taken part in a formal exhibition such as this one. The artists range in both artistic disciplines and backgrounds.
“I think people are trying to understand what Ho-Chunk do as artists. It’s about as broad as any other groups,” Sainz said.