New York’s Forge Project supports Indigenous artists, educators and leaders
Writer and conservationist Jasmine Neosh, member of the Menominee Nation, laments that his people have forgotten centuries of knowledge about native plants. During the pandemic, she says, this lost wisdom was felt even more intensely.
“Many tribes have been hit hard by economic hardship,” says Neosh, a student at the Institute for Sustainable Development at the College of Menominee Nation in Wisconsin. “In my panic, I realized that we are going to have to learn to feed ourselves.” Thus, Neosh undertook a project to discover the edible flora of the Menominee reserve.
In recognition of her efforts to create a more sustainable food system for her people, Neosh was named one of the first four recipients of a Forge Project Grant, a program designed to support established and emerging indigenous leaders working in the fields of land justice, education, food security and culture.
Scholarships include residency in the Hudson Valley
The scholarship includes financial support of $ 25,000 and a residency at the Forge Project in Ancram, NY, 20 minutes from Hudson City on “the unceded, traditional and ancestral lands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok As their website acknowledges.
Neosh shares the honor with architect and professor Chris Cornelius (Oneida), filmmaker and artist Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation / Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) and the Mohican language teacher Brock Schreiber (Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans Band).
This year’s winners were chosen by Heather Bruegl, Director of the Forge for Education Project (Oneida / Stockbridge-Munsee).
“As an Indigenous person, as a historian, as a woman, it is very gratifying to bring to light these extraordinary people in the homelands of my ancestors,” says Bruegl, whose ancestors in Stockbridge-Munsee lived. once on land that stretched across parts of New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. “It’s a feeling I can’t describe. It is a feeling of being at home.
In the future, she says, the scholarship program may accept nominations or applications – details are still being worked out.
The Forge Project was co-founded earlier this year by Becky Gochman, philanthropist and former art teacher, and Zach Feuer, director of Fields Sculpture Park at Art Omi in Hudson and former gallery owner. Funding is provided by the Gochman Family Foundation, which also supports other social justice causes, women’s health, the arts and equestrian scholarships.
Forge Project occupies two buildings designed by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei in collaboration with Swiss architectural firm HHF and completed in 2008. It is the only private residence designed by Weiwei in the United States.
The main house, known as the Tsai Residence for the investor Christopher Tsai who commissioned the project, is a cool silvery gray rectangle and is constructed from four square wooden crates covered with corrugated metal panels. The vibe is considerably warmer inside, thanks to the gypsum-paneled walls, wood floors, and huge windows that overlook the grassy fields.
Nearby is the guesthouse, a Y-shaped building made of rusty red steel that curves like a sculpture by Richard Serra. Its main floor includes paneled gallery space, while a floor below a studio / living space encompasses indoor and outdoor living areas. The nearly 38-acre property and buildings were purchased in April this year for $ 4.9 million.
A house for art
Both buildings are home to many works of art by Native American and local artists from the Hudson Valley, including Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Gigaemi Kukwits, Raven Halfmoon and Nicholas Galanin, who installed white letters of 45 feet tall spelling INDIAN LAND in the Southern California desert. . Galanin’s photograph of those words, a smackdown of the Hollywood sign two hours away, hangs in the living room of the Tsai Residence.
The Forge Collection currently contains around 100 works of art, all of which can be borrowed by curators, and acquisitions are underway, according to Executive Director Candice Hopkins (Carcross / Tagish First Nation).
“The importance of the collection is to make it accessible,” she says.
Scholarships, she explains, should be viewed as a retirement. “They don’t produce anything for us,” says Hopkins, curator of the Toronto Art Biennale and co-curator of the 2018 SITE Santa Fe Biennale. “We provide fellows with time and space in what we consider. like a pretty amazing place in upstate New York. “
Architect Chris Cornelius, who has lived and worked in the guesthouse for three weeks this summer, calls it an incredible experience. “It gave me time at a point in my career when time is a luxury,” he says.
Cornelius was a cultural consultant and design collaborator with Antoine Predock on the award-winning Milwaukee Indian Community School and will be part of the first architecture exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which will open on May 7, 2022. . His company is studio: native.
When the visual artist Sky Hopinka moved to Forge in November, he planned to work on a series of photographs of landscapes engraved with text. “It’s really wonderful,” he says of the scholarship program. “It helps support what people are doing today.”
While in Ancram this month, Neosh will interview experts on land justice, sovereignty and stewardship for a new podcast titled “From the Land”.
“The earth has taken care of us for thousands of years,” she says. “I want people to come back to it. “
Bruegl believes the Forge project shows the resilience of indigenous peoples. “I hope our ancestors can see what we are doing,” she said.
Michelle Falkenstein is a freelance Hudson Valley writer. Contact her at [email protected]