Mathers exhibit displays traditional 'Ojibwe' art

When Bloomington native and social worker Scott Miller stepped into the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, he saw pieces that seemed to illustrate the art and love of his Native American ethnicity.

“I have a few pieces of art passed down from my family and ancestors, and they are extremely reminiscent to the Ojibwe art,” he said.

The Mathers Museum opened “Ojibwe Public Art, Ostrom Private Lives” last Friday. The exhibit was organized by a group of IU graduate students.

The exhibit was free to the public and explored different works from late 20th century Ojibwe artists of Manitoulin Island, located in Lake Huron off the coast of Ontario.

 They were all collected after IU economists Elinor and Vincent Ostrom spent years there researching.

Ojibwe artists, including Eleanor Kanasawe, Stanley Panamick and Martin Panamick, were featured in the gallery.

Each piece included aspects of Native American culture inspired by nature, such as animal prints, old photos of specific Ojibwe figures and their fashion and woven objects such as boxes and baskets.

Crystal Migwans, a doctoral student in art history at Columbia University, gave a presentation titled “Spirit Island Renaissance: Ojibwe Artists, White Patrons and the Manitoulin Cultural Revival.”

The presentation focused on traditional art within the context of colonization and resistance of each Ojibwe piece.

“The Ojibwe Public Art and Ostrom Private Lives Gallery features Ojibwe art and material cultures collected by Elinor and Vincent Ostrom during their many summers on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada,” Migwans said.

Migwans also discussed the history of the Ojibwe tribe, and how they are the largest group of first nation Native Americans from northern Mexico.

“The cultural revitalization movement of the 1960s and 1970s included Ojibwe artists who infused their energy into tourist art economy,” Migwans said.

All the pieces presented were gifts to the museum from the Ostrom estate.

The Ostroms collected art and artifacts from all around the world, but took a special interest in traditional and contemporary work from Native Americans.

They collected specific sets of Ojibwe art with the goal of building their own collection to display in Bloomington.

After their deaths in 2012, the Ostroms left their all of their art collection and values to the Mathers Museum.

The Mathers Museum is dedicated to displaying the art of different cultures around the world. For more information visit their website,

Follow Anthony Broderick on Twitter @aebrodakirck.

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