Community , Culture , Health

Billboards deliver public health message and highlight Osage artist’s work

Photo caption: Osage artist Addie Roanhorse stands near one of the billboards she helped design for Osage Nation Public Health Nurse, Jaime Clark. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

Osage County travelers will see some familiar images as they go to their destinations during the holiday season. Thanks to a grant, three billboards now showcase the artwork of Addie Roanhorse.

Jaime Clark, ON Public Health Nurse, who was in charge of overseeing the design of the billboards said she chose Roanhorse’s artwork because of their public health message, and their beauty.

At the start of the pandemic, when the Osage Nation told most of their employees to work from home to slow the spread of COVID-19, Roanhorse created two posters of an Osage man and woman wearing face masks. The posters say words like “Mask Up” and “Be the Example”. The posters were a hit and they were shared widely across Indian Country via social media.

Roanhorse has created many works of art for the Osage Nation. Her works promote events, they serve as outreach to the Native community and they’re educational.

The Osage News sat down with Roanhorse to ask her about her inspirations.


Osage News: The artwork of the Osage warrior and woman in masks has been shared on social media across Indian Country. What was your inspiration?

Addie Roanhorse: When the pandemic first started in March, I realized very quickly the importance of masks. I started to work on the poster during the shut down in anticipation that a visual graphic for social media and other outlets would be needed. My inspiration was from my first memories of Osage dancers, my uncles and they always wore Ray-Ban shades while dancing and it reminded me of the Blues Brothers. I knew it needed to be an image that my Osage people could relate to, and I was thrilled when I noticed how many times the image had been shared throughout Indian Country.


News: You’re the daughter of the late Gina Gray, renowned Osage artist. Has that fact been something that has shaped you into the artist you are today?

Roanhorse: Absolutely, in our household being an artist was our way of life. My brother Dante and my daughter Anya are both artists as well, it’s just how we were raised. It never occurred to me that I would be anything but an artist and knowing how proud our mother would be is what keeps me going.


News: What are you currently working on, in terms of art?

Roanhorse: Currently, I have two commissioned paintings I am working on along with other new techniques that I have been able to develop during this pandemic. The stay-at-home order was easy for me because my studio is in my home and that’s where I am most happy.


News: You co-own Little Rain Song Loft, a gallery and Airbnb in downtown Pawhuska. What can people expect to see when they enter your gallery?

Roanhorse: Currently we have all Osage art on display at the gallery, and we are open by appointment only due to the pandemic.


News: What advice do you have for artists just starting out? 

Roanhorse: Keep a sketchbook with you at all times and write down all of your ideas for new pieces. step out of your comfort zone and try new techniques and mediums. Reach out to local artists and be their apprentice, you will learn so much. I apprenticed for my mother and her artist friends, I learned what they don’t teach in school. And keep sketching!