American Indian Center showcases traditional and contemporary Native American (NA) interdisciplinary art that promotes cultural pedagogy for discourse and understanding, while providing an inclusive platform for cultural exchange. As visitors to the AIC learn about Native history, contemporary culture, identity and cultural celebrations, they become aware of the NA historical and present-day contributions to the cultural fabric of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.
As we approach our 66th year of operation, AIC continues to engage the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois with an indispensable year-long calendar of NA cultural art programs. Cognizant of mission and goals for public consumption and community interaction, AIC art projects/programs/events are a natural extension of tribal and intertribal expression intended to achieve the following objectives: 1) Promoting NA diversity in Illinois; 2) Uphold artistic NA tribal and intertribal practices, expressions and traditions; 3) Commitment to “First-Voice” (NA programs conceived, planned and facilitated by NAs) programming and partnerships to avert misrepresentation; 4) Commitment to emerging, mid-career, and senior Native artists for exhibitions and associated programming, workshops, residencies, curatorial initiatives and economic opportunities; and 5) To provide contemporary NA arts programming that promotes artistic production, education, and appreciation. This includes creating prolific programming that recognizes our contemporary art forms as an important and empowering tool for Native peoples.
With the arts having a historically strong importance in the everyday lives of NAs, AIC art programs explore various aspects of diverse NA cultures. While the AIC continues to administer and advance in intertribal performance art, we also incorporate diverse media into our public art programming. AIC Art programs provide several vital and needed activities and services: 1) Powwows: These social events provide an opportunity for audiences to learn aspects of intertribal NA culture, including but not limited to the wide spectrum of traditional NA art, dance and music; 2) Art Workshops: AIC continues to provide hands-on workshops for the public (mostly students/youth) in order to bring Native and non-native people together for cultural sharing. Students learn aspects of the arts-in-Native-life with sessions on beading, Drum–making and dance regalia construction; 3) Cross Cultural Sharing through Cultural Performance: community dancers, Drums and singers present a unique perspective of tribal symbolism within dance regalia and language-based songs; 4) Arts and Artists: Exhibitions and Art Marketplace that showcase prolific and new works of Native artists; and 5) New Media workshops (i.e. filmmaking, digital storytelling, etc.).
The artistic mission of the AIC is to provide spaces to create, teach, share, perform and challenge Native artists and audiences by inviting and exploring other media, styles and expression. In taking this artistic license, AIC has made an impact on Chicago’s diverse population by inviting these numerous cultures to experience traditional and non-traditional forms of NA art. The preservation of diverse NA cultures is a formidable challenge, as it requires not only a commitment to an artistic quality, but also a rigorous commitment to the authenticity of the traditions and practices we seek to preserve.