Great Plains Art Institute
What You Can Do At SGU
Did you know that Sinte Gleska University is the only individual tribal college that has its own art institute? The Great Plains Art Institute at Sinte Gleska University began in 1987. It offers an AA and a BA in art. The SGU art institute is unique in that courses have been developed on Lakota and aesthetics and Native American art history that each student takes in addition to all the courses required by major university art programs. Lakota thought and philosophy is incorporated into the classes. And, even though the SGU Art Institute is a small program of fewer than twenty students, they have taken prestigious awards over Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe which has 615 students, in national art competitions, including last month’s American Indian Higher Education Consortium conference.
Charles Her Many Horses, Senior at the SGU Art Institute
Charles Her Many Horses has been a student at SGU since 2012. He is a prolific artist who has created a studio in his home, and works daily in it, as well as in class. He works in many mediums, everything from oil painting on canvas to painting on cardboard with water based paints, but also three dimensional work in a myriad of materials. His work is not bound to other peoples’ concepts of art.
Her Many Horses entered four categories at AIHEC this spring, and won in each category. He took First in Painting, First in Dimensional Traditional Art, Second in Sculpture, and Third in Drawing. This is truly an outstanding accomplishment, as the competition included the work of the best students from IAIA and also 35 other tribal colleges.
“Native art is what you make. In Lakota, there is no word for art.” Charles truly lives this philosophy, making not only beautiful objects of any material at hand, but ones that challenge the viewer and expand the definition of “Indian Art.” As a true artist, his work is not driven solely by a business perspective, although he is quick to admit selling is nice. “I would like to sell, but I’m not going to make something just because it will sell.” Instead, he makes art that will change our perception of art, and, in doing so, art itself. This is a path that is difficult to follow, because most people don’t understand that there is a difference between craftsmanship and art. Art should have craftsmanship, but craftsmanship alone does not necessarily reach the personal expression of art. The drive to produce something with meaning and inner vision sets the artist apart.
This is one reason Charles decided to attend the SGU Art Institute rather than IAIA, which he says turns out repetitious production artists, who are pushed to produce work for the art market alone, rather than work that comes from an inner source. Like most centers for Indian art, the imagery tends to be generic, made to fit the public’s concept of Indian art. It takes courage and resiliency to stand with your own convictions. By studying at Sinte Gleska Charles
says, he lives in a supportive environment and draws from his own Lakota culture rather than in an atmosphere of Pan Indian art. Emphasis at the art institute is on developing as an artist, reaching inside for direction. Much of Charles work, at times provocative, revolves around traditional Lakota stories-- actual stories rather than cliched symbols. His statements and observations are his own, as well as his distinctive imagery itself. These strengths and personal vision are the reason for his growing recognition in the art world today. At the Northern Plains Art Market he has received several awards including Best in Fine Arts in 2015. He has won first place in previous AIHEC competitions, took first at the Red Cloud Show in 2018, has shown at CAIRNS and numerous other venues.
Her Many Horses will be graduating this summer with his BA in Art. He intends to enter graduate school in the future, but in the meantime is looking into art residencies around the country.
For more information on the Great Plains Art Institute at Sinte Gleska University, call me, Margaret MacKichan, at 856-8415. Ned Day is our other highly qualified instructor.
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Maggie MacKichan has been director of the Great Plains Art Institute at Sinte Gleska University for the past thirty-two years.