In organizing the Spilyay-Mi Native American Arts Club more than five decades ago, founders wanted to encourage creativity in its many traditional and modern forms.
It’s been 55 years now and the club is still going strong, still supporting artists of all ages through talent events, plays and its popular annual art show happening this weekend.
The Spilyay-Mi Native American and Western Art Show takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Legends Casino Hotel, 580 Fort Road. Admission is a $2 donation.
It offers a venue for Native American and Western-style artists and craftsmen to showcase and sell their work. Vendors will be selling original beadwork, basketry, clothing, woodwork, silverwork, pottery, carvings and art prints in traditional and contemporary pieces.
The show and related features are moving again this year, into the casino’s increasingly busy event center. The art show had moved from the Yakama Nation Cultural Center to conference rooms at the casino last year.
“This year, the events are all in the same room,” said HollyAnna CougarTracks DeCoteau LittleBull, vice chair of the event. Mike Sekaquaptewa is overseeing the show as president of the arts club.
Wynonna & the Big Noise perform in the event center Friday night. That means volunteers and artists will likely work late that night or early Saturday to set everything up for their show.
Along with the artists and their creations, the event will include an Ichiskíin language demonstration from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, a baby pageant (full regalia) at 3 p.m. that day and a fashion show at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Other entertainment will include music and dancing on both days, LittleBull said.
Some artists have participated for decades, she noted. Spilyay-Mi was her first art show; she was 5 when she entered a painting.
“Some have participated their whole careers,” she said. “There’s all these artists who started there and were given the opportunity to grow and learn from other artists.”
For the public, it’s a chance to chat with artists. It’s also a good time for artists to catch up with each other.
“Networking is a big deal for artists,” said LittleBull, whose giant Sasquatch sculpture made of recycled plastic will debut at King Street Station in Seattle on March 23.
The 55th annual event will be the first without one of its beloved founders, Lydia Joyce Johnson, who died Oct. 1, 2018. She was 98 and known for her acrylic paintings.
“We’re looking at next year holding a special contest in her name,” LittleBull said. The contest would also honor fellow founders Rosealine Bassett, admired for her beadwork skills, and Nettie Showaway, a renowned basket maker. Other founders include Leo Adams, Will Sampson, Nathan Olney, Sharon Dollar and Theresa Eagle.
The art show is not only a sale but a way to honor artists for their outstanding work. Along with Best in Show and other awards, the family of longtime White Swan resident Myles “Pogo” Pebeahsy is having a special art contest to honor him.
Pebeahsy, who died in 2017, was a renowned painter, silversmith and ceramist, and the art contest in his name will highlight those media. First place wins $300, second place gets $200 and the third-place artist receives $100.