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Artists contribute to new Point Casino's beauty, and to cultural understanding
LITTLE BOSTON — James Streun has been doing Native art since he was a child and he likes contributing to the perpetuation of his culture.
A paddle he carved was displayed at The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at Evergreen State College. His work is about to get more exposure: The 15-year-old Kingston High School freshman belongs to a family of Port Gamble S'Klallam artists chosen to create artwork for the new Point Casino, under construction.
With the help of his grandfather, Lloyd Fulton, James carved and painted a paddle for the casino's display. The Tribe put out a request to Port Gamble S'Klallam members to submit their artwork or designs for when the casino opens this spring.
The tribe received a medley of original, cultural artwork — drums, paddles, carvings, panels, woven baskets and murals.
“We were happy to get so many and such a wide variety of style and type. The items are all really unique,” Tribal Council member Kelly Sullivan-Baze said.
While James is the youngest artist to be represented, the Tribe chose 17 other Port Gamble S’Klallam artists from a range of backgrounds. Jimmy Price, a local artist known for creating traditional pieces as well as original designs on shoes, will create one of the large panels. Sullivan-Baze said the Elders Program will also submit several pieces.
James is joined by his family, who served as his inspiration. His mother, Melissa, said she wanted cedar basketry represented and will weave a basket for the casino’s displays.
“I want to learn and teach all I can to ensure future generations have the knowledge,” she said. One of her woven cedar hats is on display at the Port Gamble S'Klallam tribal office, she's done weaving projects for the North Kitsap School District, and she teaches weaving for Northwest Indian College at the Port Gamble S'Klallam site.
Melissa’s father, Lloyd Fulton, will also submit some of his own artwork.
“We’ve always been encouraged to create things,” Melissa said.
Fulton is a Master Carver and has been honing his craft since he retired when the Port Gamble Mill closed in 1995. He has an impressive resume: helping carve the tribe’s canoe for the first Paddle to Seattle in 1989, the panels on the inside of the new House of Knowledge longhouse, and the mill worker pole outside the longhouse. He said he also enjoys painting and weaving.
Among many of today’s Native artists, artwork is sometimes more of a hobby, a spirited pastime that keeps them connected to their cultural roots.
Brian Perry now lives near Olympia but is a member of Port Gamble S’Klallam and grew up on the reservation. He remembered watching his grandfather and uncles carve, but as he became busy with work and his own family, didn’t really take his art seriously until he met Tsimshian artist David Boxley in 1998. He took a few classes from Boxley and his love of carving grew from there.
Perry’s artwork has been displayed in exhibits and galleries in Seattle, Portland, Port Townsend and on the Jamestown S’Klallam reservation, as well as some private commissions.
“Mostly I do critters that I like: killer whales, ravens, salmon, bears,” he said. “I’m trying to do some salmon. I work in fishery, and during this time of year I see salmon just about every day.”
Perry has family members with art on display around the reservation, and has now been commissioned to create one of the large panels for the front of the casino.
“It feels good to finally be able to do something and have it [on the reservation],” he said.
Construction on the 52,000-square-foot building began in August, and Chairman Jeromy Sullivan expects it will open in May.