Trickster Art Gallery announces expansion, new partnerships for Native American cultural education

SCHAUMBURG (WLS) -- The Trickster Art Gallery is announcing renovations and program expansions next year, with plans to re-brand as Trickster Native Cultural Connections.

Based in north suburban Schaumburg, the organization was established in 2005 to celebrate the native cultures of the Chicago area and create a professional exhibit space for native artists.

"Illinois was all native land at one point. We just, through the various wars, got pushed and pushed and pushed," said CEO and founder Joe Podlasek.

This Saturday, Smithsonian will open a traveling exhibit at Trickster about the ways that native communities are restoring ecosystems throughout the country.

Today, Illinois is one of the only states without any officially recognized native land-bases or reservations.

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The name 'Chicago' comes from the native Potawatomie language, and it means "land of smelly onions."

In November, the gallery held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Jesse Brown VA Hospital, where art by native veterans was displayed for the first time.

After years of coordination, the gallery selected works by Vietnam War veterans Robert Wapahi and Joe Yazzi.

Wapahi, a member of the Dakota Santee Nation, described his striking painting.

"The illustration is of an opening prayer," Wapahi. "He's offering smoke into prayer, because just about all cultures believe greatness is up above."

With the highest proportion of military service out of any ethnic group, Trickster maintains a focus on native veterans. Gina Roxas, a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomie Nation, coordinates the programming for veterans.

"My job is to make sure that we have a good diverse group of native veterans who are able to not only learn the teaching of the older veterans, but also just engage veteran-to-veteran," Roxas said.

Podlasek is leveraging other new partnerships to re-imagine the gallery as an educational space.

Through partnerships with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Field Museum, the gallery will convert its west wing into a cultural learning center filled with artifacts and interactive technology. Renovations will begin in early 2020.

The gallery is located at 190 S Roselle Road in Schaumburg, Ill.
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