Later this month, prolific artist Steven Premo (Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe) is getting his debut solo exhibit in the Twin Cities.
Even if the name sounds unfamiliar, you may already know his work. “A self-taught artist and designer, Steve’s artistic practice takes many forms, including graphic designer, illustrator, fine artist, muralist, and fabric designer, all contributing to the legacy of the Mille Lacs Band,” a press release states. Premo has provided art direction and instruction to local schools, and more than 500 of his illustrations and graphics have been published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, Minneapolis Public Schools, Hazelden Treatment Center, and other organizations, according to the release.
The exhibit comes by way of the Native American Community Development Institute and the All My Relations Arts gallery. In the form of a retrospective showcase, Avenues of Creation will express Ojibwe pride, trace the evolution of Ojibwe art, and highlight Premo’s multi-disciplinary approach (or, his “avenues” of expression). It will run at the gallery, on East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, from Feb. 14 to April 16.
“Even though I work in contemporary art forms—painting, illustrations, textile design—I hope to advance the idea that Ojibwe art forms are both old and new and are not limited to birch bark and the materials our ancestors used (though I also love those mediums),” he says in the release, “but rather have evolved just as we have evolved in the modern day.”
As a child, Premo embraced art while bedridden due to a serious leg injury. Drawing and painting guided his journey toward “cultural identity, belonging, sense of self, and healing.” His mother’s teachings in beadwork, birch bark, and quilt work also sparked his interest in textile design.
“At Mille Lacs today, we are the descendants of Ojibwe leaders, men and women, who refused to leave our homelands at the turn of the century,” Premo says. “They continued to harvest rice and maple syrup, hunt and fish, as we do today. My art takes its inspiration from our lifeways and history, and from those men and women who offered decades of consistent and strong leadership. If we cease our traditions, we cease to be Native people.”
Avenues of Creation
February 14–April 16
All My Relations Arts, 1414 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
Opening reception: Thursday, February 17, 6-8 p.m.
Community art activity: March 26, 1-3 p.m.
Artist talk: March 3 6-7 p.m.