This weekend, the Journey Museum and Learning Center in Rapid City opens a summer exhibit recognizing 100 years of Oscar Howe’s barrier-breaking impact on art.
Oscar Howe: A Centennial Celebration opens Saturday (May 30). On Sunday (May 31), the Journey Museum hosts a special program entitled Oscar Howe 100th. Oglala Lakota ledger artist, author and artist Donald Montileaux, Sioux Indian Museum Chief Curator Conor McMahon, and Lois Sayre, author of the children’s biography Native American Master Artist: Oscar Howe will speak about about Howe’s life and many contributions as an artist, mentor and educator.
Born on May 13, 1915, Oscar Howe grew up on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in South Dakota and was taught the rich traditions of his Dakota heritage through his grandmother’s colorful stories. These stories came to be the lifelong themes for his art.
Howe’s first major commission came in 1940, when he was hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to paint a mural at the Mitchell City Library and then a series of ten murals in the Mobridge City Auditorium. A few years later in 1948, Howe was commissioned to create a series of murals for the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota and would continue to create new murals for the Corn Palace annually until 1971.
In 1957, Howe joined the faculty of the University of South Dakota as an assistant professor of art. Howe would spend the next 25 years at USD, where he had a profound impact on future generations of American Indian artists such as Robert Penn, Herman Red Elk, Donald Montileaux and Arthur Amiotte. It was during this period that Howe was named South Dakota Artist Laureate and reached what many consider his creative apex, producing many of the works that are recognizable as distinctly Oscar Howe.
Oscar Howe: A Centennial Celebration features contributions from the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, the Sioux Indian Museum, the Dahl Fine Arts Center and the Rapid City Performing Arts Center.