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Creativity resonates as Ahfachkee art exhibit opens at museum

Three dimension artwork created by Ahfachkee students, including frescos and sculptures, on display at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

BIG CYPRESS — After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, artwork by Ahfachkee School students finally went on display at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation. “Home is Where the Heart is” is a celebration of art created after the long period of isolation from other students and teachers.

“When the reservation went into lockdown, it robbed students of their sense of community, their sense of home,” art instructor Jennifer Brittingham wrote in a description of the show displayed along with the artwork. “As a result, this artwork is a response to students’ reaction to being back on campus again and working together toward a unified goal.”

The exhibit is comprised of about 50 individual and collaborative pieces. Students used paint, paper, plaster and other mediums to create the art. They also created three-dimensional pieces, including molded sculptures of their hands, and a few small frescos made the same way as in the 1500s, painted on wet plaster to create a durable mural fit for the outdoors.

“Many professional artists never get to see their work hanging in a museum,” Brittingham said during the opening reception June 8. “It isn’t always the end product that counts in life, it’s the process; that’s how we learn.”

Kiki Roberts, 14, painted a flower featured in the video game “The Legend of Zelda” for the show. “It’s nice to see it on the wall,” she said. “I chose that flower because it’s beautiful and I thought I should paint it.”

A large collaborative piece made of tissue paper that looks like stained glass emulates the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, whose buildings often featured stained glass windows. Another collaborative piece by the students is a group of hearts inspired by artist Jim Dine, who has created series of hearts since the 1960s.

“The students created hearts using their own style and flair,” Brittingham said. “The show is a reflection of each student. It’s all about coming together and interacting in the classroom again.”

Describing her heart painting, Tehya Howard said she dropped some black paint on it and decided to make the hearts black. Traditional interpretation coordinator Daniel Tommie met the students at the museum’s hunting camp, where he shared words of wisdom and explained items in the camp.

“You have a strong lineage,” Tommie said. “Don’t take that for granted. Experiment and try different things. Time is the most precious commodity we have. Take the time to talk to your parents and grandparents. There are no bad things in life, just lessons.”

The group then adjourned for lunch under a chickee decorated with poster-sized reproductions of the students’ art. “Home is Where the Heart is” will be at the museum until October.

Ahfachkee School students at the opening reception of their art exhibition June 8 at the Ah-Tah-Thi-ki Museum. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Flanked on the left by her mother Lenore Roberts and on the right her aunt Lorraine Posada, Ahfachkee student Kiki Roberts, center, stands in front of her vibrant painting of a flower inspired by a video game. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
“Home is Where the Heart is” is on display at the museum until October. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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