Pitzer College’s art+environment Program Unveils Edgar Heap of Birds Artwork

Edgar Heap of Birds
Edgar Heap of Birds

Claremont, Calif. (January 25, 2013) — Pitzer College’s new art+environment program is kicking off its inaugural year with a public art installation by Edgar Heap of Birds, the program’s first artist-in-residence and an internationally-recognized contemporary artist. The installation, Native Hosts, will be on display for two years in various locations across Pitzer’s campus.

Native Hosts honors the Tongva, indigenous people whose ancestral homelands lie in the Los Angeles area. Created with local Tongva elders, Native Hosts features signs displaying the names of traditional villages and sacred sites. Pitzer Associate Professor of Art History Bill Anthes describes the artwork as “a point of conversation for members of our campus community and visitors to the campus about our local ‘hosts’ in Southern California.”

“A goal of the art+environment program is to think expansively about how we interact with non-human nature, and how art can help us imagine other possible relationships between humans and the environment,” said Anthes, the director of art+environment. “Edgar’s work with the indigenous Tongva, who have known these lands for generations and for whom geography is deeply spiritual, is a fitting beginning for our program.”

Native Hosts exemplifies how the art+environment program integrates art throughout the curriculum. Assistant Professor of Sociology Erich Steinman and Assistant Professor of Urban Studies Tessa Hicks Peterson will incorporate the artwork into their course “Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.” During the spring semester, Heap of Birds will also hold a hands-on art workshop with indigenous students at the Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, CA.

A member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Heap of Birds is a professor of Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma. His artwork has appeared in numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Australia. A recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation, Heap of Birds has lectured and exhibited across the country and the globe, from the United States and the United Kingdom to Italy and Indonesia.

Funded by a four-year, $600,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Pitzer’s art+environment program explores the intersection of the arts and the environment, finding new ways to see and understand both fields as well as other disciplines. The program develops interdisciplinary and team-taught courses with faculty from The Claremont Colleges and the Claremont Graduate University. It engages faculty and students in research and creative projects with community organizations and hosts an artist-in-residence program.

Native Hosts is the first of a series of joint art exhibitions that Pitzer will mount in coordination with Pomona College and Scripps College. A map of the exhibit will be available after the installation is complete.

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