The City of Evanston possesses a cultural vitality that many cities only hope to attain. Evanston’s Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, 3001 Central St., is bringing Native American art outside. Its current installation, “New Mexico Canyon,” is a modernist landscape by noted Navajo artist Tony Abeyta (b. 1965) that provides a colorful facelift to the museum’s façade. Mr. Abeyta’s pieces draw upon his Navajo heritage and have a universal appeal.
Mr. Abeyta said, in an e-mail to a museum representative, “The landscape has always been an inspiration to me. There is a beautiful palette of color and a marriage between earth and sky.” The artist said of the museum itself that he was impressed by how the museum “promotes a variety of different works by different tribes, including contemporary art.”
Mr. Abeyta grew up in Gallup, N.M. and began his artistic journey early, studying first at Sante Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts. From there he went on to receive a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He also studied in France and Italy, as well as at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a Ford Foundation Scholar, and at New York University. Mr. Abeyta is held in such high esteem that in 2004, when the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington, D.C., it was Mr. Abeyta’s multi-panel painting “Anthem” that served as the official image of the new museum’s grand opening.
The independent non-profit Mitchell Museum will continue to install a series of large photo reproductions of works by exceptional Native American artists from around the country. Museum officials say that this current mural is the first installment in a New Public Art Series that showcases works by Mr. Abeyta, who has visited the museum and donated the use of this image and others for the museum’s project. The next installation is scheduled in the next few weeks.
John Bucci, of Bucci Studios International, Chicago, donated the materials and labor to produce, mount and install these reproductions. Mr.Bucci explained that the “New Mexico Canyon” image on exhibit is a high-resolution inkjet print on paper, made from a digital scan of a transparency of the oil painting provided by the artist. It is mounted on ¾-inch-thick board, laminated with a protective film that screens out ultraviolet radiation.
Mr. John N. Low, the museum’s executive director, said, “The idea behind this new public art endeavor is to attract attention to the museum, attract new visitors and improve the aesthetics of our little corner of northwest Evanston. … It will also gain wider recognition for the artist.”
The Mitchell Museum is, according to its website, the “only museum in the Chicagoland area that focuses exclusively on the history, culture and arts of the North American Native people.” Its permanent exhibitions depict the Native American cultures of the Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Northwest Coast and Arctic.
The Mitchell Museum is open every day except Monday and some holidays. Regular hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (until 8 p.m. Thursday) and Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Phone 847-475-1030. Website www.mitchellmuseum.org.