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‘Indigenous Mural’ at MU Student Center brings visibility to Indigenous students | Local

A new mural on campus brings new visibility to Indigenous students with its large scale and vibrant colors.

Yatika Starr Fields, the artist who painted “Indigenous Mural” at the MU Student Center, was scheduled to attend a virtual panel at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night with student organization Four Directions Indigenous Students and Allies to talk about his work.

“Indigenous Mural,” completed in early spring 2020, is momentous in scale and brimming with color depicting earth and sky, wind and water. The painting is a monument to Indigenous students on campus and their deep roots tied to local geography, predating the university, city and state.

“A mural is a very visible thing on campus,” said Melissa Horner, a sociology doctoral student and president of Four Directions. “It could be related to our own visibility as Indigenous students on this campus.

The idea for the mural originated in 2016, inspired by a mural on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, Horner said. That spark sparked a years-long process of selecting a location for the painting, seeking approval from the student center, and choosing an artist.

“Four Directions wanted to find someone who was part of a tribal nation in that area, what is currently known as Missouri,” Horner said. Missouri is on the home and ancestral lands of the Osage and Chicksaw nations, among others.

Four Directions was also looking for an artist who could paint big: the organization’s students knew that what they had in mind would take up a lot of space.

After soliciting applications, reviewing portfolios and interviewing several artists, Four Directions selected Fields.

Fields is a Cherokee, Osage and Creek artist and muralist from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His work combines traditional landscape painting styles with graffiti aesthetics and has been exhibited across the United States, as well as in Barcelona, ​​Paris and Melbourne.

“I’m drawn to creating new grounds that viewers can be a part of,” Fields wrote in an artist statement on his website. “Previous work has often declared vibrations to abstract forms, moving and flowing with fluidity and spontaneity.”

Horner said Fields described the mural as “a visual dialogue”. Passers-by with no first-hand knowledge of Missouri’s native peoples or cultures will be able to enter the dialogue simply by admiring the painting and experiencing the symbols within.

It’s also an important symbol of visibility in one of the busiest areas of campus, Horner said.

“The University of Missouri is a land-grant institution, and it is the direct beneficiary of tribal lands,” Horner said. “The state of Missouri has had a tumultuous history with Indigenous peoples that is rooted in colonial policies and practices of cultural erasure and genocide.”

The mural is an opportunity for MU to restore the visibility of Indigenous peoples by sharing the unique connection they have with the foundation of campus, the land on which everything is built, Horner said.

Horner sees her work with Four Directions as closely tied to her doctoral work in sociology, as well as her identity. Horner is Anishinaabe and Métis, and she studies “how Indigenous individuals and tribal nations work to interrupt and heal the historical trauma caused by settler colonialism.”

The work of Four Directions contributes to this and provides an important space for Indigenous students and faculty on campus.

“It’s like a family, an intergenerational family where we can all participate and share our individual experiences,” Horner said.

“Indigenous Mural” is just one example of the work of Four Directions. The student organization advocates in academia and has formed a task force to investigate the climate for Indigenous students on campus. He has collaborated with the Missouri Humanities Council on its Native American Heritage materials. Students also worked to bond with the Osages of Oklahoma, the first stewards of the land.

Horner thanks Randi Anderlik and Ryder Jiron, students of the organization, for their extensive work on the realization of the mural. The mural also garnered financial support from all campus departments and divisions.

“We felt really good at the end of the day because (the support) was so interdisciplinary,” said Horner.