Native Americans taking center stage at expo


May 03, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NATIVE AMERICANS from New York to North Carolina will be among those converging at Savage Mill on Sunday to participate in the International Center for Artistic Development's May Day Arts Expo.

The mill will be alive with Native American dancers, drummers, singers and artisans, many dressed to the feather in full regalia.

The focus will be on Native American arts and culture, but the day will include exhibits and entertainment from throughout the region, said Camellia A. Blackwell, the event's coordinator. Live jazz and blues performances, poetry readings, face-painting, refreshments and a car show will round out the seven-hour festival.

The day is intended to be more than entertaining - it will be enlightening, Blackwell said.

"Indians will be educating people," she said. "The traditional dances will be explained by the master of ceremonies," Mel WhiteBird, a Cheyenne from Oklahoma who has a jewelry studio in Savage Mill.

For Blackwell, education and the arts are a natural fit, and she uses that combination as a platform to promote acceptance of cultural diversity. She is executive director of the Savage Mill-based International Center for Artistic Development, a nonprofit educational organization that brings cultural awareness to the public through art workshops and events.

Blackwell, a "mixed-media artist" with a doctorate in art education, has used her creative background to reach out to artists throughout the world. She sponsors visiting artists of assorted nationalities and ethnic backgrounds at her Savage Mill studio, where she gives them gallery space.

WhiteBird, who was a visiting artist at Blackwell's studio, had the idea to highlight Native American culture at the festival. The mill has been supportive of the Arts Expo, Blackwell said, adding that nearly every merchant has contributed money or goods to be used for the event.

Native American Beverly Cooper, a visiting artist specializing in bead work, helped prepare for the event, Blackwell said. Other volunteers include Joyce Tapper, Michael Graber, Jimmie Gyamerah, Sonia Luperini, Belinda Luperini, Erin Blacker, Lori Alchieka, Deborah Rohme, Christina Rohme, Riana du Toit, Erin Swann and Charles Wilkinson.

Rae Bernard, founder of Harmony of the Sol Inc., and a member of the Howard County Arts Council, one of the event's sponsors, arranged the jazz and blues performances.

Car enthusiasts won't be left out. Blackwell's husband, Sherman D. Taffel, vice president of the Nation's Capital Jaguar Owners Club, has arranged for an automotive exhibit in the west parking lot of the mill. Jaguars from the 1950s to the present will be featured.

The May Day Arts Expo will be held Sunday at Savage Mill, 8600 Foundry St., Savage. Hours will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Performances will be indoors and outdoors, weather permitting. Admission is free.

Information: 301-604-4484.

Prize-winning poetry

Josh Jamison, a seventh-grader at Lime Kiln Middle School, won first prize at the county level in the State of Maryland International Reading Association Council's Young Authors' Writing Contest. He is the son of Brian and Shari Jamison of Clarksville.

Josh's poem, "America is ... ," got top accolades in the poetry division. He was recognized April 17 at a reception at the Howard County schools Staff Development Center, where he read his piece and was awarded a certificate and trophy.

His poem, inspired by the attacks Sept. 11, describes the diversity of our country, drawing analogies to puzzles and quilts.

"I was trying to think of me as an individual and what I am a part of," said Josh, an honor student. "Different things are made up of things. I think about this quilt that my grandma had, made out of all these pillowcases."

Josh, 12, has yet to commit to a literary career. "I'm just going along with life right now," he said.

Parting words

If you want to compliment Native Americans' traditional clothing, don't call them costumes. "A costume you wear at Halloween," said Savage resident Lucy Curry, a Native American. "We call our attire `regalia.' It's what we wear, it's part of who we are."

Curry, a Monacan Native American whose son, Daniel, will perform a grass dance at the Arts Expo, said that regalia is unique to each individual. "We make our own. You can't go and buy it," she said. "You have to think about it, pray on it, commune with the higher spirits."

Adorning the regalia with intricate symbolic details is time-consuming, Curry said, especially because modern-day Native Americans like herself have jobs and cannot devote days on end to sewing, beading and painting.

But Curry is undeterred. "It's a passion. I enjoy working on it," she said. "It might take me years to finish it. It will get done!"

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