Sand to Stone: Contemporary Native American Art in Joshua Tree
Sand to Stone: Contemporary Native American Art in Joshua Tree is a multidisciplinary art project highlighting contemporary Native American artists from the four tribes (Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Mojave and Serrano) who have significant cultural ties to Joshua Tree National Park. Over the course of one year, this community collaboration will feature an art exhibition, sitespecific installations, performances, education programs, a dedicated website, and a modest publication. Each component encourages Native American artists and local communities to respond to the land within and around park boundaries and to reconnect with the park in the production, exhibition, exploration, and performance of art, music and dance. These activities will have the added benefit of fostering cross-cultural interactions and reaching diverse populations historically underserved by the mainstream arts community.
The history between artists and National Parks dates back to the 1870s. Today, one of the tenets of the National Park’s Call to Action for the next century is connecting people to parks through art. In January 2015, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service announced “Imagine Your Parks” – a new $1 million grant initiative under the NEA’s Art Works category, marking the intersection of the NEA’s 50th anniversary in 2015, and the NPS’s centennial in 2016. Both agencies are working together to support the creation of and greater public engagement with art related to the National Park System and its protection of cultural and natural resources. Concurrently, in February 2015, the California Arts Council confirmed the availability of the “Creative California Communities” program – a grant supporting collaborative projects that harness arts and culture as key economic and/or community development strategy. The announcements of these grants and support from local Park administrators provided the encouragement to pursue a large-scale collaborative art project addressing the unique cultural history of our region and the relationship between Native American artists and Joshua Tree.
For many years, visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers, have congregated along the 60-mile corridor bordering the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. The Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council annually hosts its Hwy 62 Art Tours, High Desert Test Sites has gained significant recognition for its experimental and immersive projects, and for more than 60 years, the 29 Palms Art Gallery has presented some of the most important artists of the hi-desert. Despite the high concentration of creatives in this area and the acceptance of a wide array of media, subject, and presentations, there has been little recognition of Native American artists – historical or contemporary. Sand to Stone seeks to: create an awareness about artists previously overlooked, shift assumptions about Native American Art and culture, and advance the scholarship of Native American art.