Vault Gallery Showcases Native American Art

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Categories: In Our Communities

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Betsy Swimmer appreciates an authentic Native American dress, made by one of the artists whose work will be on display at the Vault Gallery in Catoosa.

A newly established art gallery along the Mother Road in northeast Oklahoma will be showcasing the works of Native American artisans.

Just off Route 66 in Catoosa, the Vault Gallery is the culmination of the aspirations and efforts of a group of dedicated Native American artists and volunteers.

The group? The Route 66 Native Arts Alliance.

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Artists Dianna and Harry Beaver will be among the featured artists at the Vault Gallery in Catoosa.

“Route 66 Native Arts Alliance is a grassroots movement that was born out of the idea to create an opportunity to educate, display and promote Native American art and artisans,” said Betsy Swimmer, Route 66 Native Arts Alliance. “When the group was being formed, everyone was excited about the idea of displaying (Native American) art – paintings, pottery, weaving, etc. – but we needed a location in order for us to be able to do this.

“Being a realtor, I’m familiar with property in the area and was aware of a space that became available to us in Catoosa, right along Route 66, which is appropriate since it’s also a significant part of our heritage,” she continued. “We acquired the space – which had previously been occupied by Bank of America – and, since a vault was one of the prominent features within the space, we decided to call it the ‘Vault Gallery’ and open it up as a source of cultural tourism.”

Although the group had hosted art shows previously, their newest exhibit – entitled “The Spirit of Collaboration” – will coincide with the grand opening of the art gallery in February.

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Though only 18 years old, Daria’s artistic textile genius for weaving her own knits, creating colors, and clothing patterns with an outstanding sense of style and purpose.  From a full-size ruffled skaters dress made from paper to a one piece jump suit emulating a space suit, Daria is an amazing local clothing design talent showcased at “The VAULT Gallery.”

“We’re now in the position that this will be our third (art) show, we have the gallery, and we’re developing a cultural tourism program,” she said. “We’ve already had basket making classes, pottery making classes and more., but the gallery will give us the opportunity to highlight the work of Native American artists all the time.”

Swimmer, herself a member of the Cherokee Nation, has been a volunteer at the Tulsa Indian Arts Festival, was founding member of the Indian Territory Arts & Humanities Council in Broken Arrow, and under the auspices of Tulsa Global Alliance, coordinated a Native American art show which went to Germany in 2000.

Even so, she still encounters persons without an accurate frame of reference for her culture.

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“The impact of our people and of our tribal leaders is pretty amazing, and one that we always enjoy telling people about,” she said. “But when people come to the area, they may have heard of the strong Native American influences and the people here. They really don’t know much about us, our contributions or our heritage, so we have the opportunity to share with them about our history through conversation, and at the Vault Gallery, through our art.”

Native American artists help make the knowledge presentable through their work, in such a way that people are more attracted to it and upon being attracted, have the opportunity to learn about its origins.

Among the Native American artists to be featured at the “The Spirit of Collaboration” exhibit are Crystal Hanna, Clancy Gray, David Bruntzel, Traci Rabbit, Gwen Lester Coleman, Mary Beth and John Timothy, Daniel Martin Horse Chief, Dianna and Harry Beaver, Rise Thelanker and others.

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“We especially like the gallery being located on Route 66 because of the historical significance and its association with Andy Payne – I knew him personally when I lived in Oklahoma City,” she said. “There are many tie-ins (with Route 66), and the fact that the Route 66 Centennial will be taking place in 2026 makes this the ideal location for us to share our art and cultural pride with visitors, giving them an authentic experience on Route 66.”

Swimmer said the gallery is planning to have four major exhibitions a year and once open, artists will be on-site regularly to meet with the public.

“The attraction here is that this is a gallery which was founded by artists to display their work,” she said. “This is an artist-driven gallery that will be organized and run by an artist committee made up of authentic Native American artists, who will be on-site. There will be no question about the authenticity of what they’re producing. This will be the definitive attraction for travelers wanting to learn more about Native American culture.”

“The Spirit of Collaboration” exhibit will coincide with the opening of the Vault Gallery,
6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

The Vault Gallery is located at 1801 Highway 66 in Catoosa.

Once open, the gallery will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Cost to visit is free, but donations will be accepted, and authentic art will be available to purchase from participating artists.

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