Gallery Documents Oscar Howe's Long Legacy at the Corn Palace

Last Updated by Michael Zimny on

A new permanent gallery at the Corn Palace documents the many years that Oscar Howe made the grain temple a canvas for his vision.

The influential Yanktonai Dakota artist — who was raised on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation, and challenged at-the-time contemporary notions of what it meant to be a traditional Native American artist — designed the annual murals for the Corn Palace from 1948-1971.

Many of the sketches and paintings he made as models for the murals have been kept in storage for decades in rooms above Mitchell City Hall. A few were hanging in the City Council chambers. 

The new gallery traces a chronological record of the Howe Years at the Corn Palace, featuring over 50 works including pencil sketches and paintings. These works were clearly meant as guides for creating more ephemeral works with the corn medium — many of them are overlayed with gridlines, and even hand-written notes to help guide installation on the Palace walls. The murals have gone back to dust but their impacts outlived their organic existence. These templates give us a chance to go back, or see a stage in the process.

The themes varied widely from year-to-year and through the decades. Historic themes include “Replica of History Beginning with Arikara Indians to Present” (1956) and “Dakota Territory” (1961). South Dakota and Plains wildlife is pervasive throughout nearly every year, excepting maybe 1969’s topical “Space Age” motif. In his last two years he swung from grim visions of Earth’s future ("Cease Destruction Environment") in 1970, to "Mother Goose Rhymes" in 1971, his final installation. 

His tenure at the Corn Palace covered the post-War boom through late-60's/early 70's epoch, and the last years mirror the highpoints and anxieties, even the psychedelic esthetic (Mother Goose) of the times. Or maybe the times just mirrored what Oscar Howe was doing at the Corn Palace. His murals exhibited a reverence for nature and indigenous cultures long before the West Village and Haight-Ashbury caught up to what was going on in Mitchell.

“Oscar Howe is just a big part of Mitchell —  a big part of the community,” says Terry Johnson, City of Mitchell Deputy Director of Public Works, “and he left a long legacy.”

This collection is a fairly comprehensive testament to that legacy. 

Of course if you're visiting Mitchell on a Howe tour, you'll also want to see his murals in the event center at the Palace, and on the dome of Carnegie Resource Center, and the Oscar Howe Gallery at the Dakota Discovery Museum.

Related:

New Children’s Book Tells the Story of Oscar Howe

Oscar Howe's Wounded Knee Massacre, a Rarely Seen Masterpiece

A Few Ways to Celebrate Oscar Howe's 100th Birthday

subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

Artist Deborah Mitchell: Gardens I've Known

In The Moment ... January 4, 2017 Show 249 Hour 2 It's always a delight to catch up with artist Deborah Mitchell...

Images Of The Past

In The Moment ... December 18, 2017 Show 242 Hour 2 We talk with Conor McMahon, Chief Curator, U.S. Department of...

"Loving Vincent" Comes To Sioux Falls

In The Moment ... November 29, 2017 Show 229 Hour 1 Cinema Falls brings the film "Loving Vincent" to Sioux Falls. We'...

Paul Horsted’s Epic National Parks Project

In The Moment ... November 22, 2017 Show 226 Hour 1 Paul Horsted has been making photographs for more than 35 years....

Books

Executive Nancy Dahl On Corporate Leadership

In The Moment ... February 21, 2018 Show 281 Hour 1 Nancy Dahl joins In the Moment host Lori Walsh for a...

Bruce Wylie Discusses "Adventures In the Bush"

In The Moment ... February 13, 2018 Show 276 Hour 1 If you're looking for an adventure, you can live vicariously through Bruce Wylie's book "Adventures in the Bush...

"Glorious Fourth Of July" By Mary Gibson Sprague

In The Moment ... February 7, 2018 Show 272 Hour 1 Mary Gibson Sprague has a new book featuring the artwork and...

Scott Freeman's "Saving Tarboo Creek"

Scott Freeman is a biology professor at the University of Washington, where he received a Distinguished Teaching...

Music

The Transformation Of Chase Padgett

In the Moment ... February 14, 2018 Show 277 Hour 2 Head to the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City this Saturday at 7:30...

Kid Dakota Talks About Pain, Music, And "Denervation"

In The Moment ... February 13, 2018 Show 276 Hour 1 Kid Dakota is the musical moniker of Darren Jackson. His albums...

Moment In Sound With Anna Robins

In The Moment ... February 9, 2018 Show 274 Hour 1 For this week's Moment in Sound we welcome Anna Robins . Her new...

Personalities: Jim McKinney, Fmr. SDSU Band Director

Jim McKinney came to South Dakota State University in 1975 and was SDSU's band director from 1983 until his...

Theater

Images of the Past: Stage To Screen

In The Moment ... November 27, 2017 Show 227 Hour 2 A new exhibit at the Old Courthouse Museum tells the story of...

Personalities: From Huron High to Broadway

Singer, actor, and teacher Joseph Mahowald graduated from Huron High School in 1977. He went on to study music and...

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...

In The Moment ... Remembering Vietnam On Horseback

In The Moment ... May 9, 2017 Show 089 Hour 2 Colt Romberger’s father served in Vietnam, and it changed his life...