It is spring.
And this particular spring, had a particular significance. An incredible significance, filled with gratitude.
This particular Anishinaabe new year seems to take on a new role, the optimism is present but I am cautious with it. As Anishinaabe, we believe the east is where we come from, we began our journey from the stars to become physically present here on earth. We begin our journey with gifts, that of which includes the sacred gift of Asema, or tobacco, to share our gratitude.
This past year has been hard on so many of us around the world. So as the thawing of Aki begins here where I live along the Red River with my family, ready to I start anew, ready to move forward- here I am, getting my second Pfizer vaccination on the first day of spring, in hopes it will provide protection not only for me, but for my family, and for the communities I am part of. A lot of emotion came through me, as a child I once was hospitalized for a dangerous virus which infected me, and there were no vaccinations until 20 years later, upon the birth of my first child. Memories overwhelmed as I remember the moments of the sickness, fear and isolation. It is a blessing we have come so far in our sciences, for which I am incredibly thankful for.
There’s a bittersweet beginning to this new year, we have lost so much, yet perhaps we if we haven’t grown in the hardships that we’re bestowed onto us yet, that maybe now in this moment we are ready to do that now as the earth begins to warm and life begins to reawaken. My seedings have quickly sprouted, indicating that they too are ready for new life just as much as we are.
I hear the phrase, "ready to get back to normal." However, I wonder if we ever had a "normal," as it seems it was more about comfort and familiarity. We maybe have lived a little too confidently, and the pandemic exposed the true vulnerability of the world. Though some have chosen to ignore a global epiphany, many have seen the importance of one another, that we all carry social capital.
I am incredibly thankful for those who worked so hard to keep everyone safe, informed, sacrificing so much this year by isolating, and those supportive to one another. The pandemic isn’t over, so we must continue our due diligence. Provide accurate information, continue with mask wearing, practice social distancing, proper hygiene, stay home when sick, and so forth. We will move forward fast, grow faster, if we are actively supportive and compliant with such basic steps. While we may have our vaccines, there are people who do not have the privilege nor access to this vaccine. That includes our littles.
I do not know what is in store for me in my career, as the trajectory continually is molded as our environment shifts. Career plans are being altered and adapting for feasibility. There is an unknown as a creative person right now, but I continue to create in the various mediums that I work with. Despite the hardships, it has been also exciting in the sense of exploration as well.
I am happily welcoming in this new year with gratitude and humility.
Great each sunrise with a song of gratitude.
BooZhoo, Aniin, friends, art enthusiasts and curious minds.
2020 is coming to a close, and I welcome it greatly, like many. The beginning of the year began turbulent yet had promise. I was fortunate to visit Washington, D.C. for the first Native Arts and Culture Summit. It was exciting and a blessing to be in a space of like minded creatives. Little did I know that at that time, the COVID-19 had been introduced to the soil on Turtle Island, or North America. Quickly, the world was flipped upside down for all of us. My thoughts and ideas for growing within the arts were tucked away, as I needed to focus on the well-being of my family.
At the beginning of 2020, I was also able to create beautiful work by collaborating with a dear friend, mentor and Laguna Pueblo metalsmith Pat Pruitt. The set was unique and one of a kind limited edition. We hope to collaborate in the near future. The experience and challenge reaffirmed that I would like to continue a path of merging designs from painting and utilize technology to create unique pieces. More Indigenous artists are empowered to create micro-businesses or more, allowing us to have control of how we are represented while creating sustainability.
Well, we would like to hope I suppose. 2020 has been a challenge for many small businesses, whether it is starting a new small business, expanding a small business or frankly, being sustainable. While PPP loans were made available, not everyone was approved of them. Self employment in the arts was minimal. However, I was very thankful for organizations like First Peoples Fund, NDN Collective, The Soze Foundation, and the North Dakota Arts Council which their grants were able to offset costs to invest in my arts business.
I recently was able to invest in a laser cutter to further my line "Zazegaa Designs by Hillary Kempenich." The line includes jewelry, clothing and home goods, which I integrated into my family shared Etsy page. (Kempenich Studios) Originally, I was hoping to have work carried in boutiques, however with the pandemic creating shut downs, I have been limited in expanding the line for now. I am eager to advance my experience with this technology to utilize also for art installations.
I do have work that can be found at Watermark Art Center in Bemidji, MN and at the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN that is available for purchase.
Due to the pandemic, most of my schedule for 2020 was shut down. Originally shows and markets were postponed but we have not been able to reopen venues safely. I am thankful for fellow artists helping one another out, whether its words of encouragement, positive word of mouth, or sharing opportunities. Two of my recent works are now a part of the third Bring Her Home at the All My Relations art gallery in Minneapolis, MN. The show will be made available online to ensure safety for viewers.
Like many across the world, we have lost so much- sense of self, security, and stability. Every day we appreciate the air in our lungs and we have been able to maintain a healthy home, especially as my husband works in healthcare. We lost friends and acquaintances, and have watched our loved ones lose family. It has been a helpless feeling. We try to accept what we cannot change, while being responsible by isolating in our home as much as possible, while using masks when we leave. It is simply the least we can do for others and for ourselves in a world of extreme chaos.
With that, I wish everyone well. Blessings and good energy to all.
It just occurred to me that I haven't blogged in almost a year!
It has been a whirlwind of a year, and I don't see things slowing down. As I come to my third year at SWAIA's Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it's awesome to reflect on where I have been and where I am going. First of all, I would like to announce that my youngest daughter will be joining the SWAIA Family as well with a Youth Fellowship. I am very proud of her ambition.
I wrapped up the Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellowship that introduced me to new and familiar experiences, fellows allowed my family to grow, connections were made- and it allowed a lot of personal and professional growth in ways that I had not anticipated. In that time, I also completed the NALAC Advocacy Leadership Fellowship as well. With NALAC's ALI, I was given tools and guidance to help me advocate for the arts, and advocate for inclusion in the Arts.
In my college career, and now during my pursuit of my professional career, I have found how underrepresented and misrepresented Indigenous and People of Color are in the Arts. It is not much different than any other career force. I am challenged by the inequity and lack of opportunity for people like myself. And I find myself continually asking, how can I help others and myself? This past years experiences have allowed me to further explore this question, and find direction. As a creative, I would like to continue to pursuit my work as an artist, however, it is also important that I play a role in finding others who wish to support the arts.
ARTIVISM: Activism + Art
As I continually work to evolve my work, the path that I am on was unintentional. I have been identified by others as an activist, which I felt conflicted with, and eventually embraced. Whether it was in a college course, or a viewer looking at my work right now, I find that I am told that my work is not "native enough," or "too political." I do not intend for my work to be interpreted to be anything except to be my truth, and perhaps the truth for others. Often, Indigenous people do not have a platform to tell their stories where others take the time to listen. I feel that I have an opportunity to create dialogue that may not otherwise be there. While time from time I have a viewer looking at my work does not seem to understand it, nor take a moment to open their minds to other's perspectives, generally I do feel that there is an audience paying attention. I may not change a person, however, to provoke thought and conversation is inspiring and motivating.
Paintings by Hillary Kempenich
Currently, a large collection of my work can be viewed at the Sioux Museum at the Journey Museum and Learning Center in Rapid City, SD. The work will be available on display now through September 28, 2018. All works are available for sale.
Bring Her Home
Bring Her Home exhibition at Gizhiigin Arts Incubator, 701 E. Jefferson Ave., Mahnomen, Minnesota 56557. A collection of artworks by several artists, brought together to reflect and respond to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. Works are on display now through August 29, 2018. Opening Reception is August 2nd, 4:30 to 7:30
SWAIA 97th Annual Indian Market
In third appearance at SWAIA, Hillary will be joined with her daughter Niska Kempenich. Hillary has work available in SWAIA's Gala and Auction, SWAIA's IM: Edge Contemporary Show and Indian Market booth. Booth number is LIN W 741.
For further details on SWAIA events, please go to: www.swaia.org
Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date!
BooZhoo! Greetings! Aniin! Welcome!
The leaves are falling again, the air is crisp, and I have wrapped up another busy season. As I conclude this recent 'quarter,' I smile. When I reflect upon the last 5-6 months, I certainly find myself conflicted with feelings. I am happy for what I've experienced. Despite experiences including loss, frustration, adversity, I am joyous, I am grateful for what the Creator has bestowed upon me. I was reminded how fragile our worlds are, yet that fragility creates strength and resilience. We find what is inside us as the outside world tries to break us down with anger, disrespect and ignorance.
I fell upon the title of this blog through a peer, James Vukelich, who is a fellow Shinob, a fellow Anishinaabe, who puts his love, time and energy into the revitalization of our Ojibwe languages. As I was checking in on the daily word, I thought to myself, "how fitting."
During the summer months, many find themselves flocking to the lakes, rivers, and vacations. Unfortunately, as usual, I found myself far busier this summer than I anticipated. I had kicked off with starting here in Grand Forks, North Dakota at the Arts on the Red, and finishing this busy season in San Francisco, California at the Social Impact Markets- SOCAP17 Summit. Yet despite the busy, I greatly enjoyed it. I have not experienced more travel, people, learning and growth than I have in this last year than I can recall.
I am making time for self care when possible, which includes maintaining and reconnecting with my roots, my Indigenous roots, my cultural identity. I have been making it a priority to listen to my original languages lost along the way of adulthood, I continue to get my hands dirty with soil, working on traditional arts, regalia making. I do these things for my family and myself. I find it creates balance in my work, home life, philanthropy and goal developing.
I have observed as technology advances, many, including myself are beginning to acknowledge we are missing basics of nature in our lives. During this recent growth spurt of mine, I find myself cultivating ideas to connect myself back to the land and people; hoping that this can create a trickle effect within and beyond my community. I have found my more introverted self, pushing boundaries, calling people up, both familiar and strangers, asking to be within their presence. Soon, I was enriched with company, new experiences, and my family at my side.
Over the summer, we had an amazing opportunity to travel to Red Lake, MN to visit Wayne Valliere, who was building a traditional Birchbark canoe, which is a lost art. It was amazing to take items we may over look in today's modern world, and create such a beautiful piece of functional art. Its acts like this that keep me moving forward. As we continue in this world of innovation, we need to look back at methods such as creating this canoe. It's amazing how the Creator provides what we need, and yet I'm saddened how we take this for granted. I hope to better build my own practices, so that these skills can get passed down to many more generations.
As I continue this journey of mine, where I hope to find balance in today's world, I struggle. I believe in the unity of respecting & uplifting one another's differences, this needs to be done tactfully and with respect. I am so amazed by the abundance in diversity the world has. There is so much beauty within each of us, we all have so much to contribute to this world. As I continue to work towards better understanding, mutual respect, celebration of one another, and helping one another, I feel those who I love and respect, may not reciprocate those feelings. I find myself welcoming the fall and winter, where I can reflect upon the words and actions, or lack there of. I see that this is an opportune moment in which I will learn to navigate, utilizing the patience I have developed through the many diversions, obstacles, and conflict I have come across in my 36 years of living. So now, as I retreat back into my studio space to prepare for an upcoming show in the Spring, as well as conclude a fellowship, I look forward to what is yet to come. My joy is that I believe in you, and I believe in me. We are all in this together.
BooZhoo! Aniin! Mino giizighad! (Greetings! Welcome! It's a Good Day!)
Well, it's August and hard to believe that half the year has already come and gone. There was much growth personally and within my career development. There's been tears of happiness, frustration, sadness and perseverance.
I began the year accepting the first Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellowship. This wonderful program is intended for those working within the Arts sector.
"The first cohort of the Intercultural Leadership Institute is a collaborative program of Alternate ROOTS, First Peoples Fund, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) and PA’I Foundation.
The Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI) is a year-long rigorous personal and leadership development program for artists, culture bearers and other arts professionals."
I am blessed with connecting with so many forward thinking, like minded artist professionals. As a full time studio artist trying to pursue personal and career goals, there can be an isolated feeling. With the ILI Fellows, I have been reassured that I am not alone.
To further my career development, I have had the honor to attend the Social Innovation Summit and the first Springboard for the Arts Train the Trainer Intensive (Work Of Art + Community Development). These were scholarships were through the Bush Foundation, and I'm happy to announce in continuation of this process, I will also be attending the SOCAP17, Social Capital Markets in San Fransisco. I am truly appreciative of the Bush Foundation as well as the many others who have believed in my mission.
It was not long ago I had felt lost, unsure where to begin in moving forward. These workshops, conventions and fellowships are life changing.
Next week I will embark on my third trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the We Are The Seeds in the Railyard on August 17 & 18, and end the weekend with SWAIA Indian Market on August 19 & 20th. I enjoy my time in Santa Fe, it is wonderful to have a large audience in which I can share stories as a Modern Day Storyteller with my art as well as absorb creativity from everything under, above and around me.
My artwork has slowly been developing, as time is completely borrowed. I have broken from limitations that I may have placed on myself due to assumptions of what is accepted, and continually learning new methods as well as integrating traditional arts.
I have been thinking a lot about finding hope and value. How we can find that hope, as individuals and as a community on our journey through life?
There is no word in our Ojibwe language for my profession. In the English language I would identify as an artist, aadizookewinini is what we say, Which means Storyteller.
My childhood was very awkward, I was very awkward, I’m still awkward. There are moments when I feel as if I walk this world with only a small amount of companionship, which is my spouse and children. It won't be long before my children will be off to walk on a separate path from me, but I know that we will always be parallel to one another and I take comfort in that.
As I continue to discover who I am, I have chosen to embrace the perpetual clumsy awkward person that I am. It allows me to remain hopeful on this journey that we share together.
I have utilized paintbrushes, small video, digital images, poetry and other objects as tools to tell my story and also to share the stories of others. We tell our stories in many ways, this is one of many tools I’ve embraced. How do you share your story?
Nurturing our passions, our gifts and our talents allow us to grow. Finding value within ourselves is terribly important, but also to have a balance with that. Be willing to learn. Value is a forgotten idea it seems. We don't seem to value our neighbors, value education, value diversity, etc. We can find value even with those we don't agree with... If we choose to. There are times we come across people and situations that are not ideal. This is when we need to assess situations, figure out how to respond. What can we do to make a difference? How can we leave a positive mark in the world? Can we inspire others? When we share with others, that allows positive growth in within ourselves, our homes & communities.
I take pride in my work, in what I do. Art is like a mirror of who we are, the mirror is a reflection of what is deep inside us. How we react to art is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to grow. I have spent the last several months teaching young beautiful minds a small fraction of art.
Art is pain, Art is love, love is awkward.
Art is healing, art is observations, art is experiences.
The story is Art. Living with hope is Art.
The impact of art is under appreciated. Everything in our lives has been touched by an artist in some way or another. It saddens me to hear that the Arts are going to be taking such a large direct hit by an administration that seems to have lost value in the common person. Art is an amazing investment in our national economy. It accounts for 4.2% of the Nations annual GDP, it creates jobs, over 4.7 million workers. It also creates such a dynamic platform for communities. As I grow my career, I have realized how much I under valued arts... It has such an impact on all of us.
My daughter shared her "Fortune" the other day where it said, "With Music, you must think with your heart and feel with your mind." I'm not sure where I'm going with this at the moment... but a lot of thought is running through my heart and lots of feelings in my mind...
I do ask you for this, to understand the fears, worries and hopes of one another.
I sit here and try to think rationally through things.
My health, my child's health... under attack. We both have pre -existing conditions.
My livelihood, my career in art... under attack.
The safety of women, both young and old... under attack. The Violence against Women Act is to be defunded...
The education for my children, our children... under attack. You know, Grizzlies in Schools...
The food and water for my family, for our society... under attack. Water is Life. Defend the Sacred.
The ability to soundly find retirement after working hard for decades... under attack.
This is just a short list.
I know some may think this is an exaggeration, but it is real to ME. It is real to my children. Real to many friends, family and fellow citizens. Empathy may be difficult for some, but being real and honest is what I prefer.
If you don't agree with me, my love and faith remains. Let's be supportive. Even if we don't see eye to eye.
I know that we all can work together. I am hopeful, I believe we will persevere.
For those that feel the same, let's work together and be one another's light.
Please take time to support the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts in Action, National Endowment for Humanities and Public Broadcasting.
La Bonne Anee, Happy New Year!
2016 started out to be an exciting year filled with both familiar settings and new opportunity. I was excited to share the news of the First Peoples Fund Artist in Business fellowship. It was an amazing experience for which I will always be appreciative for. The appreciation for this group is that they had faith in my beliefs and what I do, which will last a lifetime. Chi miigwech, many thanks, to all for their support, enthusiasm and well wishes. And thank you to those who have invested in purchasing work from me. Your patronage allows me to continue my practice in art and be able to invest in the tools needed for sustainability.
I admit that 2016 had taken me for a spin also. There was a lot of growth over this year and I am thankful for everyone that I have met along the way. As someone who grew up in an isolated circle, taking time for various priorities, the act of putting myself out there was a learning experience. I was not exactly the type of person who felt they learned much from institutions, I need and crave hands on involvement. Being out in the real world made the most sense to me. Because of this, I will be a student for the rest of my life. Continually learning. Not only in my career, but personally as well. I am far from perfect by anyone’s standards, including my own. There are things that happened in this last year that I cannot explain, or interpret yet, though they have left lasting impressions.
I was amazed to see what is happening in Indian Country and beyond. There’s much unity. With growth and success, there is bound to be setbacks and indifferences. I am very proud, despite the heartache, to witness, and to be part of something great. What I have learned over my short time here on Turtle Island, is that we won’t always agree. We shouldn’t allow disagreements to break bonds and relationships. However, we should not force relationships nor allow toxicity into our spaces.
My heart was filled with hope as I seen the unity that came to be when a plea was sent out by Native youth and it was answered by our elders and peers around the world. I am in awe of the strength in women and sisterhood. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for protecting Aki, Grandmother Earth.
My work is often inspired by what is happening around us as it is happening. Artists are first responders to the world around us. Over the years, I have seen that our concerns in Indian Country continue. We need respect and prosperity. When children raised concerns about the welfare of our water and environment, the response by many was beautiful. Many people have stepped up to the challenge. With that, we need to remember that these issues are not over. Please do not forget the people of Standing Rock, and around the world. We have opportunity to be better and make smarter choices. It all starts with us as individuals.
I am happy 2016 concluded. It had its triumphs and I also feel that an alarming fear has overcome me in many ways. For my entire existence as Indigenous woman, Anishinaabkwe, I am aware of oppression, disconnect, trauma… the experiences are rampant. I listen to many people discuss their concerns of society/ I share some of those concerns. Now, I see that these issues are far from ever going away, instead, the ugliness of survival is coming full force. Despite what our immediate future holds, I am going to stay hopeful in the ability to survive through darker times. We will navigate together if we are willing to.
I observed a conversation regarding “colorism,” and other issues such as lateral violence. There are people that overcome adversity. Others try to navigate their way through. What works for one person does not work for others. It is a truth that I have learned with my health, spirituality, relationships, and career.
I am astounded by how we continually judge people by appearances. Weeks ago, a young man said, “why does racism exist?” My heart ached as I am often afflicted by this same question. I was not able to come up with total words of wisdom, but I offered, “many people desire control, especially over others. Many will fear what is different, unfamiliar, and they choose not to understand. I’m glad that you are here to ask such an important question.” We all differ from one another, as the Creator intended. Differences and diversity are wonderful things. These things should not be faults as some treat them. Differences should be embraced and celebrated.
I absolutely love learning about others, accepting differences is important. This gives me the capability to grow. I may not learn as fast as others, but I keep persevering. I believe to make those changes within oneself, remove fear, and to share your growth with others. Hopefully, others are willing to see those positive changes, as well as respect your happiness.
With that rambling and reflection, I’m excited, anxious, nervous as we move into the new year. I look forward to more growth within me, I look forward to the world to rise above. Cheers to 2017. I am thankful that I can begin the year with healthy children, a healthy husband, and my perpetual awkwardness.
Ready for a New Year and New Adventures.
Chii miigwech 2016.
BooZhoo, Aniin 2017!
I am delighted and honored to say that I will be returning to Santa Fe here in 2016 to participate in two wonderful art markets. A year ago, I was very nervous and humbled to be accepted into the Indigenous Fine Arts Movement, also known as IFAM. It was a wonderful experience. As an artist, we are always questioning our abilities, and I felt so at home. I am very thankful for the acceptance by the organizers, fellow artists and art enthusiasts.
Twenty years ago, as a teenager I had first experienced SWAIA with my family. At the time, I was healing from a traumatic death in our family and the world seemed bleak. By attending SWAIA 75th Indian Market, it woke me up and reignited a light in me. The culture and art had woken up my slumber from the outside world. It was then I decided at some point in my future career, I hoped to join the SWAIA family. I have a story to tell—about our people, our culture, our family and myself. My stories are told with the paint brushes in my hands and the canvas in front of me.
My journey is continually evolving. My career path had a late start, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity for so many life experiences to help guide what I create and how I create. I have often been told that I am not conforming to certain styles and ideals. I am not one to conform. I am delighted that both markets will be welcoming me this August.
Please join me at both IFAM and SWAIA!
IFAM Booth 519, August 18-19, Thursday through Saturday, Railyard District, Santa Fe, NM
SWAIA Booth 917SHE, August 20-21, Saturday and Sunday, Sheridan Avenue, Santa Fe Plaza
Chi Miigwetch! Many Thanks!