Montana State University

Red Star shares success with MSU Indian students

April 15, 2005 -- by Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service

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Bozeman - A few weeks after opening a major retrospective show at Billings' Yellowstone Art Museum, it might seem logical that noted Crow artist Kevin Red Star might want to kick back and relax. Instead, the acclaimed painter will spend hours this weekend shaking hands and signing posters to help benefit Indian students at Montana State University.

"I support anything that involves furthering Indian education, or education in general," said Red Star, who once attended MSU, as well as San Francisco Art Institute and Eastern Montana College. Red Star's daughter, Jennifer, is currently a nursing student on the MSU campus and a sister, a niece and other relatives have also attended the Bozeman campus.

This year Red Star donated the use of his painting, "Pretty Shawl," to the MSU American Indian Council's poster promoting its April 15-16 pow wow, the group's 30th annual event. The group has been selling the autographed posters for $50. They will continue to sell the posters during the two-day pow wow, with the revenue from the sales providing critical seed money for the event as well as money for Indian student activities and scholarships.

This is the second time that Red Star has lent the use of a painting to help fund the MSU pow wow, and MSU administrators say his generosity is key to the continued success of the event.

"MSU is privileged to have an artist of Kevin Red Star's caliber to consistently donate his art work to help fund our programs," said Henrietta Mann, a national authority on Indian education and special assistant to MSU President Geoff Gamble.

"The sale from our posters that use Kevin's work results in a significant funding source for us," said Jim Burns, adviser to MSU's American Indian Council. "We are blessed that he is able and willing to participate."

Red Star is clearly an artist who believes in giving back. Born in Lodge Grass and raised in Pryor, he showed talent in art at a young age and was selected to attend the Institute of American Indian Art, a high school boarding school in Santa Fe.

Red Star said that he's been painting "a good 35 years." During those years he has established a style that illustrates his tribe's history with a decidedly contemporary style that is described as rich, vivid and dreamlike. His paintings are in public and private collections throughout the country, including the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Elizabeth Guheen, curator of the Yellowstone Art Museum, recently said "There are few people of (Red Star's) caliber working in Montana - other than perhaps Russell Chatham."

"I like to play with colors," Red Star says of his style, adding that he uses colors that have meanings to the Crows. "I like to imply an 'Indianess' to my work."

Red Star says the subjects for his paintings, such as Pretty Shawl, come from his imagination. But he does borrow ideas from photos that he takes at pow wows he attends, particularly the Crow Fair and Encampment held each August in Crow Agency.

"I get ideas from here and from there," he says. "I take a yoke from here, a hem from there. In the case of Pretty Shawl, I wanted something that would depict the students in the Indian Club. And you see a lot of these young Crow ladies and students dressed this way at the pow wows, in their elks' teeth and buckskin dresses. I wanted something that they could relate to."

He said this year he and his daughter Merida, who runs his gallery in Roberts, and his grandson, Mason, will be participating in the MSU pow wow. He said he tries to take in every pow wow that is close by and he is energized by the students, particularly young artists who ask him advice.

"I tell them that after they are through with their studies, they should go out and create work," he said. "The more we work, the luckier we get at what we do. And, if you love it, it's not even work.

"I tell them to work and not to think about the financial returns. I never even considered that. If you work, and do your best, the rewards will always come."

Contact: Jim Burns (406) 994-4880