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Smithsonian to feature Mitchell’s Carnegie Resource Center, other SD locations in short film

The film, a 10-minute short, will be on display for six months at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City at an undetermined time in 2022 before moving to the Portland Art Museum in Oregon

CarnegieResourceCenter.jpg
Mitchell's Carnegie Resource Center is home to both the Mitchell Area Historical Society and the Mitchell Area Genealogical Society. The center currently has 10 original Oscar Howe works, plus the mural on the building's dome. (Hunter Dunteman / Republic)
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic

The Smithsonian Institution made a stop at Mitchell’s Carnegie Resource Center on Saturday in part of filming a short documentary characterizing the life of South Dakota artist Oscar Howe.

Howe, a Yanktonai Dakota Native American born on the Crow Creek Reservation, was an accomplished artist who challenged the typical perceptions of “Indian art” at the time. His style bridged his Native American heritage with his Euro-American experiences to create a distinct style that was not initially accepted.

Though seemingly unintentional, the rules for submission of many art institutions at the time severely limited the breadth of talent Native American artists had. Howe rebuked these standards in letters mailed to submission boards, according to a biography published by the South Dakota Art Museum.

Multiple different artistic opportunities came Howe’s way, including teaching art in Pierre and at the University of South Dakota, painting murals for Works Progress Administration’s South Dakota Artist Project and even designed the murals on the Corn Palace between 1949 and 1971.

His work rewarded Howe with many accolades during his life, as his art won first prize in many national competitions over his life. He was named Artist Laureate of South Dakota in 1954, was awarded the Waite Phillips trophy for outstanding contributions to American Indian art in 1966 and was the first recipient of the South Dakota Governor’s Award for Creative Achievement in 1973.

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Howe died from Parkinson’s Disease in Vermillion in 1983.

The Carnegie Resource Center, home to both the Mitchell Area Historical and Mitchell Area Genealogical Societies, currently has nine original Howe paintings, one original drawing plus an original mural on the interior of the building’s dome.

“It’s a big honor for the Smithsonian to be here,” said Beth Walz, president of the Mitchell Area Genealogical Society, adding that she is excited to see the Center get recognition. “It’s a great thing for Mitchell to have.”

Since the building's opening in 1903, it has changed hands and been repurposed multiple times. It has been used as a library, an art center and a gym before it was considered surplus property by the city.

When talks of demolition began, the historical society launched a “Save the Carnegie” campaign, and the city ended up selling the building to the society for a dollar.

Though the building may have repeatedly changed hands, Howe’s original “Sun and Rain Clouds over Hills” mural has remained since its completion in 1940.

Karen Pooley, president of the Mitchell Area Historical Society, said this is the first time the Smithsonian has visited the Carnegie Resource Center.

The center had three originals plus the mural in 2017, but acquired six more original paintings and one original drawing in 2020, which are currently on display in the building's upper level.

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“We’re tickled to have them here,” Pooley said.

Howe's art is one of the center's many valuable assets to drive visitors into the center, its volunteers agreed.

The Smithsonian contracted with Doug Lee Pictures, a Sioux Falls videography and photography company, to capture shots of the Carnegie Resource Center, with other stops in Vermillion, Mobridge and the Crow Creek Reservation.

The film, a 10-minute short, will be on display for six months at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City at an undetermined time in 2022 before moving to the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.

Related Topics: ART
A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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