"Seminole Art Scene From the Frontlines" Spotlights Indigenous Art During Basel in Fort Lauderdale

Seminole Art Scene From the Frontlines co-curators Tara A. Chadwick (left) Elgin Jumper (center) and artist Jimmy Osceola (right).
Seminole Art Scene From the Frontlines co-curators Tara A. Chadwick (left) Elgin Jumper (center) and artist Jimmy Osceola (right). Photo by Ghenete Wright Muir
South Florida is gearing up for Art Basel madness: overflowing galleries, heavy traffic, and deep-pocketed tourists looking to beef up their personal collections. As the contemporary art fair has grown over the years, there's been a concerted effort among the local community to make events more inclusive and reflective of the artists who create here on a day-to-day basis. Miles to the north of the Miami Beach and Wynwood Basel epicenters, History Fort Lauderdale has partnered with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to present "Seminole Art Scene From the Frontlines," a fine art exhibit showcasing the creations of contemporary Seminole Tribe artists.

The exhibit opened on November 11 at the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, but on December 2, Basel attendees will be able to visit the exhibit and stay for an artist meet-and-greet and panel discussion moderated by Adrienne Chadwick and titled, "State of the Native Art Scene." This is the fourth year that History Fort Lauderdale will host a Native art exhibit, but it's the first year that the show will extend past November, Native American Heritage Month.

This year's featured artists include Elgin Jumper, Jimmy Osceola, Jessica Osceola, Jackie Osceola, Gordon Oliver Wareham, Brian Zepeda, Erica Deitz, Samuel Tommie and Stephanie Hall.

The concept for "Seminole Art Scene From the Frontlines" grew out of the the 2015 “Centennial Storytelling” project funded by the Community Foundation of Broward’s Art of Community grant. Says curator Tara A. Chadwick, “This project presented some interesting results. We realized that we have diverse and often opposing perspectives on history, and that history is a very personal and subjective topic." She adds that the current exhibit aims to explore the history of Fort Lauderdale through the lens of "both male and female Seminole artists on their terms and from their point of view."

Erica Deitz is a Seminole, Winnebago, Ojibway and Mohawk artist whose work is permanently displayed in the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. and the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami. Her piece in the show, “Clan Mother,” depicts Susie Jim, a medicine woman that was part of the Panther Clan that Deitz also belongs to.

Similarly, participating artist Jimmy Osceola's work focuses on portraits of his people, his ancestors, and their history. “There are so many different cultures here in Dade and Broward now," he says, "but they don’t know about us. It’s important for us to have these shows so people can know more about the Seminoles.”

But Chadwick says exhibits like this one show that attitudes are shifting. “Like the work of many Native artists through the past 100 years," she says, "Seminole art has transformed in the eye of the artistic public from cultural, utilitarian use items, to tourist curiosities, to craft items to fine art. Indigenous art is still all of these things, but the works of Indigenous artists, including those featured in 'Seminole Art Scene from the Frontlines,' are finally beginning to gain recognition in local and global art markets.”

Seminole Art Scene From the Frontlines Art Basel Reception. 11 a.m. Sunday, December 2, at The New River Inn at History Fort Lauderdale, 231 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-463-4431. Admission is free for Art Basel Cardholders. Tickets cost $125 for the general public via
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Ghenete "G" Wright Muir is a freelance writer, LGBTQ advocate, and lawyer. She produces Thou Art Woman, an event for women who love women and art.