Surveying the Native art of the Pacific Northwest

Submitted by Kai Wise on
AIS Adjunct and Curator of Northwest Native American Art for the Burke Museum, Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse

Congratulations to AIS Adjunct Assistant Professor Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse who teaches in the School of Art, Art History, and Design for this beautiful story about her class "Native Art of the Pacific Northwest." The article was published in the UW Magazine and shows us the breadth and depth of Professor Bunn-Marcuse's course, as well as her work with Bill Holm and the Burke Museum. As she says in her bio, she consciously "collaborates with First Nations communities and artists to activate the Burke Museum’s holdings in ways that are responsive to cultural revitalization efforts." 

Enjoy a short snippet of the article here and then read the full piece which includes beautiful photos and maps of many Native artists and their work, and a clip of Vi Hilbert pronouncing Seattle in Lushootseed, which Professor Bunn-Marcuse uses to teach her class its pronunciation. 

The class has a particular weight this quarter because of the passing of the legendary Bill Holm in December 2020. Holm, a leading scholar of Native art and art history, mentored Bunn-Marcuse, ’98, ’07, and was like a grandfather to her children. Even though Holm is no longer with us, students at the UW continue to learn through the people who learned from him, teaching the classes he helped shape. Holm taught a three-quarter sequence of Native art to UW students in the 1970s, inviting anyone in the community to sit in on the class. The auditors included Indigenous artists like Haa’yuups Ron Hamilton and Joe David. People crowded in and sat in the aisles in Kane Hall.

That’s because Holm knew his stuff. As an outsider to Native arts and culture, he had immersed himself in the Burke Museum beginning as a teenager in the 1940s, learning from director Erna Gunther before traveling the region to meet Native artists and learn about their craft. “They were really interested in talking to him, because he was really interested in talking to them,” says Bunn-Marcuse. “His strength was that he was incredibly humble and generous.”