The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cahokia Mounds was once a centrally located hub of Indigenous civilization. In 1200 AD it was larger than London, rising and falling before the European conquest of the Americas. Similarly, the Kansas City Indian Center (KCIC) is a focal point of Indigenous activity serving metro area residents.
Center of the Universe is a collaborative project consisting of seven, half-day sessions during the spring of 2016. Maura Garcia will recruit from families involved in KCIC’s community activities. During the first part of the project Maura will spend 10 days at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC as a fellow in the Artist Leadership Program. Her research of Cahokian and moundbuilder art will be the foundation of the beginning sessions, which will include discussions of ancient and modern Native urbanity, research of tribal and family migration stories, and will examine participants’ places in the world via these perspectives.
The sessions that follow will be dedicated to learning arts techniques grounded in Indigenous aesthetics. As a dancer/choreographer, Garcia will lead the movement-based sections. She has also enlisted the aid of local Native artists of different disciplines to work with the group. Team members include include Jimmy Beason, Baron Hoy, Rikki Kluber, Scott Lemmon, Luke Swimmer and Julia White Bull.
During the remaining sessions, the group will revisit their research. Participants will reflect on this information and their newly learned techniques and decide how they would like to share their thoughts and experiences with the public. Garcia anticipates that participants will express themselves differently and she will facilitate a cohesive presentation format for the final product. Elements of the performance may include dance, spoken word, paintings, beadwork, storytelling and singing.
By incorporating visual and conceptual elements from mound-builder artifacts and architecture, as well as from each participant’s tribal tradition(s), the group will create a unique urban, Missouri River basin, Indigenous aesthetic. This aesthetic will be used to generate the components of the final product. Examples could include any of the following: design patterns on a Cahokian vessel translated into choreography, the creation story-telling cadence of a participant’s mother transformed into a rhythmic beat, the migration route that a family took to Kansas City transformed into a collage.
During the final work sessions the group will design, create and practice the components of the Center of the Universe in preparation for the culminating production. The celebration and all on-site project activities will take place at KCIC.
Negotiating Native identity, culture and one’s place in the universe is a common challenge. Through this project, participants will explore their identity and be empowered to define and express themselves.
Maura Garcia is a dancer/choreographer who collaborates within communities to create stories of identity and place. Originally from North Carolina, Maura is an Indigenous woman (Cherokee/Mattamuskeet) who brings her own mixed-blood southern story to all of her work. Concerns about the perpetuation of Cherokee life-ways, the environment and social justice underlie her creations. She uses her art to empower, to form connections, to uplift Indigenous cultural values and to explore the rhythms of the natural world.
Maura specializes in multi-media, one-woman shows involving audience participation, engaging the community in the creative process via interactive arts and experiential workshops. Dedicated to engaging artists from diverse backgrounds to form collectives, she has crafted performances and video work with mixed-media artists from around the world. She is fascinated by stories that have been hidden and the unexpected connections that arise when they are rediscovered.
Maura has presented work at prestigious venues throughout North America, and has been the recipient of numerous honors. She currently resides in the Midwest, traveling for work, ceremony, family and life between the traditional and post-removal territories of the Cherokee and Mattamuskeet peoples. In addition to her professional endeavors, she has coordinated and taught youth class at the Kansas City Indian Center’s (KCIC) monthly culture night for two years. She has also coordinated Cherokee language activities for the community.
Gaylene Crouser, Executive Director at the The Kansas City Indian Center. KCIC has a mission to encourage social, educational, and economic advancement of the American Indian community by promoting traditional and cultural values
Scott Lemmon (Cherokee Nation) is a Google Earth Outreach Trainer. Google Earth Outreach gives nonprofits and public benefit organizations and indigenous communities the knowledge and resources they need to visualize their cause and tell their story in Google Earth & Maps to hundreds of millions of people. He recently received training at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. At Mountain View he received training on the latest Geo Tools and had the opportunity to see what is on the horizon. Scott is also a board member of the Kansas City Cherokee Community.
Rikki Kluber (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is an installation artist. She graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute with a concentration in painting. Rikki collaborated with dancer/choreographer Maura Garcia to create the installation piece WIND. An integral part of the conception and production of the work, she performed with Garcia at the Great Midwest Balloon Fest of 2010.
Julia White Bull (Standing Rock Lakota) is a bead artist who resides in Lawrence, KS. She has an American Indian Studies degree from Haskell Indian Nations University and. Master’s degree from the University of Kansas. She grew up in South Dakota where her mother and father taught her to bead at the age of 12. Julia strongly believes she finds healing in beading. Her grandfather taught her that when she beads she must place one bead out of place, to teach intricacy and perfection.