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Community art project underway for Sesquicentennial Celebration

Chris Lutter-Gardella, Welana Queton, Russ Tallchief, Candice Byrd and Daposka Ahnkodapi students are working on a community art performance for the Sesquicentennial Celebration and need community volunteers

In about six weeks, children and adults will take to a stage at the tribal museum to perform the Osage story from creation to the present day – in 25 minutes.

But there is much work to be done before those performances on Oct. 21 and 22.

On Sept. 6, under the tutelage of Chris Lutter-Gardella, a Minnesota artist who upcycles waste such as plastic bottles and bags to create puppets and public art installations, children in the Daposka Ahnkodapi school program started crafting puppets and props for the play.

On Sept. 8, the children and a few helpers from the community were using papier mache to form bison horns, coat hangers and plastic mesh to make dragonflies, and plastic water bottles to make a galaxy of stars.

But they cannot do it alone, said Welana Queton, who is among the visiting artists collaborating on the project with Lutter-Gardella.

Queton said that she needs hands to help. “This is a community project,” she said, stressing the word community. “There’s a lot of stuff to do. We need to make a giant papier mache squash, a giant elk, a swan.”

She said the project will also need help staging the play, tentatively called Sky Grandma and her Nikashe, next month. She and fellow artists Russ Tallchief, Candice Byrd and Lutter-Gardella will be at the Osage Nation Civic Center on West Main Street in Pawhuska from 1:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Sept. 12-16 and helpers can show up any time during that period or call her at (505) 377-6222 for more information. The project also is in need of brown paper grocery bags or newsprint for the papier mache.

Lutter-Gardella is a well-known artist who creates spectacular interactive art, usually animals, that delight both children and adults. One exhibit that received a lot of press was a Monarch butterfly installation at the Mall of America; people could pull on a rope to make a 30-foot butterfly, surrounded by 300 smaller brethren, flutter.

On Sept. 8, a few community volunteers turned out to help with the project, including Cindra Shangreau, the chair of the board that oversees the operations of the WahZhaZhe Health Clinic.

“This,” she said with a big smile as she helped children turn bottles into stars, “is so much fun.

“And there are a lot of stars.”


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Louise Red Corn
Louise Red Corn has suffered from wanderlust for decades: She has lived and worked as a journalist and photographer in Rome, Italy, New York City, Detroit, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma, where she published The Bigheart Times for 12 years. She loves diving in-depth into just about any topic but is especially fond of covering legal issues, perhaps because her parents were both lawyers. She is married to Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn, who enticed her to move to the Osage Reservation in 2004. She and her husband live south of Pawhuska with one extremely large dog named Max, one extremely energetic dog named Pepper, and, if he bothers to make an appearance, a surly cat named Stinky.

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