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TOTEM as MONUMENT & ARCHIVE:
A Workshop and Lecture Series

August 2023

A site-specific workshop series in Northeastern Oklahoma at Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park: 21300 OK-28A, Chelsea, OK 74016. 

 

Each day will focus on a different theme: Totem Pole Parks and Monumentality; Historical Backdrop and Cultural Appropriation; Photography and the Archive; and Art, Public Space, and Roadside Attractions. These themes will be developed through short readings, group discussions, hands-on restoration of physical artworks, and guest lectures. At the base of all these inquiries we will look at the intricacies of Native representation and cultural appropriation both at the time that the Totem Pole Park was constructed, as well as presently, with the intention of continuing to interpret the park as an art site with criticality and from multiple perspectives. 

Workshop Dates

Session 1: August 1 - August 4, 2023 10AM - 4PM

Session 2: August 16 - August 19, 2023 10AM - 4PM

Participants are free to attend single days or come for the entire 4-day program.

 

Cost: FREE, but registration is required. Includes coffee and lunch. 

*Must be 16 or older to apply, or be recommended by a mentor/teacher. 

Lecture Dates

August 6: Will Rogers Memorial Museum Auditorium, Claremore. 3PM - 5PM

Moderated by Pablo Barrera, Associate Curator at Oklahoma Contemporary.

Panelists: Emily L. Moore, Associate Professor of Art History at Colorado State University and author of "Proud Raven, Panting Wolf: Carving Alaska's New Deal Totem Parks"; Dr. Russell Cobb, Associate Professor, Graduate Director, Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta and author of "The Great Oklahoma Swindle: Race, Religions and Lies in America's Weirdest State"; Annalise Flynn, independent curator and art historian based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin who manages SPACES Archive on behalf of the Kohler Foundation; Apollonia Piña, Indigenous activist, organizer for the Matriarch organization, developer of indigenous-centered STEM camp for Native youth, and interdisciplinary researcher of Mvskoke, Xicana, Scots-Irish, and French lineage. She is a correspondent and co-creator for this lecture series. 

August 20: The Center for Public Secrets, Tulsa. 6PM - 8PM

Moderated by Pablo Barrera, Associate Curator at Oklahoma Contemporary. 

Panelists: Yatika Starr Fields, Osage/Cherokee/Creek painter and muralist; Ashanti Chaplin, cultural producer and multiform conceptual artist; Graham Lee Brewer, national investigative reporter at NBC News covering Indigenous communities and president of the Native American Journalists Association. 

This lecture series is free and open to the public. Stay tuned for more details!

Questions? Email Erin: eturnerinstal@gmail.com.

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Workshop and Lecture Series Description 

The Totem as Monument and Archive is a workshop and lecture series in partnership with Rogers County Historical Society and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC). This program is designed to engage and educate arts students and arts enthusiasts on Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park with the expectation of initiating long-term interest in the site. The series of workshops and lectures will address the Totem Pole Park thematically, giving historical and contemporary context to the grassroots art environment that was created by Ed Galloway from the 1930s to the 1950s. We will examine the function and role of monumentality in sculptural form through reading and discussion. We will also consider how the archive functions in the restoration process of historic structures, as well as the initial use of archives in the original construction of the park. We will look at how tourism on Route 66 has shaped this site, and look at similar artist-built environments in the area. At the base of all these inquiries we will look at the intricacies of cultural appropriation both at the time that the Totem Pole Park was constructed, as well as presently, with the intention of continuing to interpret the park as an art site with criticality and from multiple perspectives. Participants will have the opportunity to learn restoration techniques through hands-on work and propose complementary projects that contribute to the park’s long-term goals. 

 

The workshop series is designed as a theoretical and practical course concerned with the critical inquiry that has emerged through the restoration process at the Totem Pole Park. The workshop series is a 4-day course, where participants can either come to a single day or participate in the entire 4-day program. Two sessions of the same 4-day program will be held in August of 2023. Each day will focus on a different theme: Totem Pole Parks and Monumentality; Historical Backdrop and Cultural Appropriation; Photography and the Archive; and Art, Public Space, and Roadside Attractions. These themes will be developed through readings, discussions, hands-on workshops, and lectures. 

A series of leading questions derived from assigned reading material will drive the discussion. A short lecture and workshop will follow, covering restoration techniques, archival methods, and/or future planning and strategy development. Participants will do hands-on work at the park followed by breakaway sessions where smaller groups are formed to generate speculative futures for the site. We will end each day by sharing our questions, concerns, and conclusions. 

 

The lecture series is a crucial component to the workshops that will take place at the Totem Pole Park. A series of lectures will take place at different venues around North Eastern Oklahoma, and will be open to the general public. Experts of their field will give presentations that offer diverse perspectives and develop context for how to look and think about this site. Archivists, contemporary artists, curators, journalists, historians, art historians, and tribal historians are among some of the voices that will build the narrative around the Totem Pole Park during this lecture series. Guest lectures will be recorded and transcribed. 

 

By addressing the themes found throughout the workshop series, we hope to generate a dialogue that will help shape how the organization continues to interpret, engage with, and modify the public experience of this site for future generations of visitors. Dialogue with the Native community is vital to the success of this project. We see this park as a site of intersections and believe that through dialogue those intersections can be defined, narratives can be pulled out, and convergences can coexist. We find it imperative to contemplate this site with the Native community of Oklahoma and abroad. Engaging with and centering the voice of the local Native community will not only add perspective to the site but also activate a much needed conversation surrounding local history, cultural appropriation, and accountability. How did the form of a totem pole park become an art environment in Oklahoma in the 1930s and what can we learn from looking at this ‘monument to the American Indian’? 

Workshop Facilitator

Erin Turner is a site-specific installation artist, social practitioner, and painter who is interested in land-based practices, preservation, and collaboration. She was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is currently based out of Brooklyn, New York. She began the most recent restoration project at the Ed Galloway Totem Pole Park in 2015 and has sustained engagement with the site ever since. Her initial research was focused on up-to-date preservation methods for the twelve cement structures that make up the park. Her restoration effort at the Totem Pole Park has been met with receiving the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Officers Citation of Merit in 2017, and led her to present with the National Park Service in 2018 at the ‘Are We There Yet? Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions Symposium’ in Tulsa on the Totem Pole Park. In 2023, Erin Turner alongside the Rogers County Historical Society (the owners and operators of the park), received the Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant to implement the Totem as Monument and Archive workshop and lecture series. 

 

As an artist, she has continued to imagine and consider how the totem as a form became the subject of a grassroots art environment in Oklahoma in the 1930s. She considers the Totem Pole Park as a monument and an archive. Looking at the manner in which the Native American figure has been utilized to create the facade of the totems (over 200 bas-relief busts and figures), she theorizes about what photographic ephemera and government programs Ed Galloway would have had contact with during his life as he contemplated and designed this park. She is interested in the history of Native representation, the politics that shape the archives that Ed Galloway would have used (think Andrew Edward Curtis and beyond), and the mechanisms in which cultural appropriation has fueled the many facets of past and contemporary society. With this project she considers how necessary it is to generate dialogue and conversation with a variety of Native voices that can speak from their specific place within this history, and how collectively this site can be better interpreted for the ten thousand plus visitors who come to the site annually. It is her goal to center the Native perspective in North Eastern Oklahoma while contextualizing this park within its historic and artistic placement. 

 

Impact Statement

Rogers County Historical Society has been engaging in strategic planning and sustainability conversations regarding Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park for the last 8 years. There has been a major restoration project that began in 2015 to repaint all of the structures at the park, spearheaded by Erin Turner (restoration artist) and David Anderson (director of the Totem Pole Park). Signs were designed in 2021 to begin to address interpretation at the park. This program, The Totem as Monument and Archive, initiates education and further interpretation of the park by engaging the local community, socially engaged art students and practitioners, and experts on the intricacies of this historic site. Participants are asked to imagine creative futures for the park. This program supports and expands the efforts that Roger County Historical Society has already been putting towards the Totem Pole Park. 

Funding for this program is made possible from the Oklahoma Historical Society through their Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant, Steve Sanders, and Mary Mcmahon. Special thanks to the Rogers County Historical Society for their sustained support in programming at the Ed Galloway Totem Pole Park. 

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