Throughline: Student Works Inspired by the Center's Collections

Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO
April 2021 — April 2022

As an interdisciplinary student at Fort Lewis College and an intern at the Center of Southwest Studies, Elise Boulanger was inspired to create an exhibit to celebrate her peers’ diverse voices in harmonization with the Center’s collection. With hopes to hold space for her peers and herself to explore personal narratives, she sought to find new, meaningful connections with their place at Fort Lewis College. Over the semester, she collaborated with students through conversations about their backgrounds and learned invaluable lessons about the power of assumptions and the importance of respect for other cultures. The idea that objects are living, made from living beings, passed to living beings, and existing for many generations to come is the theme of Throughline. Each piece in the Center’s collection has a voice that should be heard.

Throughout the semester, each student met with Elise as the student curator several times on a one-on-one basis at the Center of Southwest Studies to look at collections, choose one or more pieces to connect with, research items, and talk about inspiration to create artistic works. They traced stories through the Center’s curatorial team about where objects came from, who made them, what they mean, and how they came to the collections at Fort Lewis College. 

The creation of original art emerged from connecting the emotions they felt about the collection pieces with the deeper research they delved into. This research, using the Center’s database, online resources, or direct communication with professional artists, broadened their insights into the pieces’ larger cultural, historical, or artistic contexts.

Zoom opened opportunities to meet with people face-to-face that are in different parts of the country, like Garrett Ettisity, artist mentor, and Jack Townes, museum preparator. Throughout the creation of this exhibit, they talked about the value of art as therapy and personal expression that has been crucial to wellbeing this past year. This project would have looked a lot different if it were not for the amazing steps the college took to keep the community safe.


Student Participants: Elise Boulanger, Studio Art (Osage); Danni Crombie, Studio Art (Gwich’in); Chloe’ Umdenstock, Art Education (Cherokee); Laurel Grimes, Communication Design (Chikasha, Vietnamese, Cherokee, Irish); Destiny Morgan, Studio Art (Diné , Nahiłii); Qootsvenma Denipah-Cook, Biology (Ohkay Owingeh, Hopi, Diné); AJ Lopez, Anthropology + Native American Indigenous Studies; Shalee Rowley, Creative Writing; Cheyenne Williams, Journalism (Muscogee [Creek]); Hannah Jacks, Communication Design (Cherokee); Stella Atkinson - preferred name is Soggy John, Studio Art; Kobi Gyetvan, Studio Art + Marketing (Latinx); V. Barney, Communication Design + Sports Administration (Diné, Laguna Pueblo); Ben Rogers, Art Education; Maddie Lamb - preferred name is Maddie Sanders, Communication Design (Mvskoke & Mojave); Emily McWilliams, Biology + Anthropology (Diné); Emily’s sister and grandmother also created pieces for the show - Claire McWilliams and Lillie Coleman.


Funded by the Ballantine Family Fund and a Mellon Undergraduate Research Grant

Student Skateboard Deck Art Inspired by PIVOT

Fort Lewis College Reed Library + Student Union in Durango, CO
March 2020 — May 2021

Inspired by the PIVOT Skateboard Deck Art traveling exhibit curated by Duane Koyawena and Landis Bahe on display at the Center of Southwest Studies in Durango, CO.

- Participants : Tayen Booth, Danni Crombie, Qootsvenma Denipah-Cook, Nadya Erlandson, Zyan Frauen, Marina Galasso, Skyler Kling, Maddie Lamb, Elise Lilburn, Noah Lindenthal, Damian Linscott, AJ Lopez, Destiny Morgan, Benjamin Rogers, Chloe’ Umdenstock, Kara Vadeboncoeur, Kaylan Yazzie and Clarissa Zeller.

- “This project excited me for many reasons - a huge one being that I wanted students’ art showcasing their identity to be represented across campus and not just in the art building. The greatest way to celebrate our diversity is through art. I also love working with other students on collaborative projects.” - Elise Lilburn

Collaborative Amoebas

Fort Lewis College Reed Library in Durango, CO

Gouache on Yupo

Participants : Elise Lilburn, Kailyn Farrell, Skyler Kling, Matthias Biggs, Keirstyn Peters, Mandy Petersen, Alex Ekey, Zyon Frauen, JP Pankoff, Gabby Miller, & Chloe Umdenstock - Funded by the Student Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Grant