Lame Deer High School students Pat Whitedirt and Markell Little Coyote working with indigenous Ceramic artist Raven Halfmoon as part of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts residency "First Fire" held in the summer of 2023. | photo by Susan Wolfe

Bridging Cultures: An ArtWalk Showcase

April 3, 2024

by brooke wagner

What do Los Angeles, New Mexico, Eastern Montana, Bozeman, Helena, and Billings have in common? The answer may surprise you. April will bring artists from each of these areas to our very own Downtown for an evening of performance and exploration, showcasing a collaboration between the Lame Deer School, Japanese flautist Kojiro Umezaki, and the Billings Symphony. Debuting in 2024 at the April 5th ArtWalk, this project actually began years ago right before the 2020 pandemic. Umezaki says, “While the original idea of traveling to Seoul with the students from Lame Deer school to engage with the creative process of K-pop artists in South Korea became virtually impossible to realize, it opened the possibility of situating the work within a more diasporic context, which often blends the local with the global.” The event is called “closer | together, moheh | stestove,” and will bring to life the concept of local artists pairing with others from across the globe. The event will include a premiere of an original music and dance composition, an art exhibition, and two separate film screenings. Held at the Billings Symphony headquarters Downtown, this is sure to be one of the can’t miss events of the season. 

The original music and dance composition combines the flowing melodies of Umezaki on traditional Japanese flute with the Morning Star Singers, a percussion and vocal student ensemble from Lame Deer High School. Two Northern Cheyenne dancers, decked in traditional, handmade regalia, will also be featured in the piece. Student artists/musicians will play handmade ceramic whistles, created under the direction of multidisciplinary artist Cannupa Hanska Luger and Lame Deer art educator Susan Wolfe. Luke Minton, a student violinist from Bozeman High School, will also accompany the group. Minton plays regularly at Montana InSite Theater as well as Tippet Rise.

The art exhibition will feature a brand new collection of ceramic artwork, again by Lame Deer Students, combining visual arts with those of a more musical nature. Two short films will also be premiered, exploring Indigenous practices and weaves in themes of belonging, mutuality, and borders. The first screening, a music video, was shot in Los Angeles. Highlighting an ensemble of student composers, the video will display creative filmmaking techniques as it presents original songs by Lame Deer junior and senior high school students. The second film, called “First Fire,” is a documentary that chronicles the efforts of several Native American artists to construct a pit firing site as a “dedicated gathering space for Indigenous pit-firing practices and Indigenous-led educational programming.”

Pete Tolton is a local filmmaker, writer, and artist who lends his giftings to this event. Tolton observed the students from Lame Deer interacting on a busy L.A. street as they participated in this project from start to finish. He notes about the films, “[They] invite viewers to a headspace that both grounds and transports, fostering external connection and internal reflection.” He states that being engaged in this work has brought “immense joy and incredible hope.”

Indeed, joy and hope are things we all could use a little more of today. The students from Lame Deer, along with their international musical and artistic counterparts, are the true heart of this event. The creativity, courage, and resilience displayed throughout this collaboration will serve to inspire our community to look not only inward, but outward as well. Often the things that connect us are far greater than those that divide us. 

  • When: Friday, April 5, 2024
  • 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • Where: Billings Symphony offices (not Alberta Bair Theater) | 2820 2nd Avenue North

This event is free and open to the public, and is family-friendly.

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