Hillstrom Museum of Art exhibition From These Hands: Fiber Art and Poetry by Gwen WestermanApril 1, 2021

Time: April 1, 2021

On view at the Hillstrom Museum of Art from February 15 through April 18, 2021, is From These Hands: Fiber Art and Poetry by Gwen Westerman, featuring the work of Dakota scholar, artist, and poet Gwen Westerman.  The artist, a faculty member in the English department at Minnesota State University, Mankato, has collaborated with the Museum in the past, when she served as co-curator and artistic contributor to the Museum’s 2012-2013 exhibition Hena Uŋkiksuyapi: In Commemoration of the Dakota Mass Execution of 1862.  That exhibit was occasioned by the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history, in which 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato on December 26, 1862, following the end of the U.S.-Dakota War.

This current exhibit, From These Hands, includes important loans from The Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul and The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  It is accompanied by a fully-illustrated brochure, which will be available at the Museum and in pdf form on the Museum website at https://gustavus.edu/finearts/hillstrom/exhibitions.php.

A video walk-through tour of the exhibit will also be available on the Museum website.

Please see below for the artist’s statement about her work, and for a fuller biographical account of her career and art.

NOTE that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no opening reception for From These Hands, and hours at the Museum may be restricted.  As of the opening of the exhibit, the general public is generally not allowed on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College.  Those from the general public wishing to visit the exhibits must email hillstrom@gustavus.edu to seek an appointment as an invited guest of the College (note that this process typically will take at least two days).  For more information, including updates to Museum hours and visitation, please see the Museum website at www.gustavus.edu/hillstrom.

Visiting hours for employees and students of the College are expected to continue to be the Museum’s normal hours of Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.- to 4:00 p.m. and weekends, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.


As Dakota people, we have a long, rich history that explains not only where we came from, but also our responsibilities to each other and to the universe. My art is grounded in Dakota culture, history, oral tradition, and language recovery—and the continuation of our story. The women in my family have made functional quilts from fabric for at least six generations—my childhood was full of them. While many of the quilts I create are utilitarian as well, and I expect them to be used, they also function to tell a story. My uncle and my grandma always reminded me that we need to tell the truth about our people and our history. I strive to do that in my art.

                                                                                              Gwen Westerman


A fiber artist and poet, Gwen Westerman lives in southern Minnesota, as did her Dakota ancestors. Her roots are deep in the landscape of the tallgrass prairie and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. Since 2005, she has been creating quilts that have won awards at the juried shows of the Northern Plains Indian Art Market in Sioux Falls, the Eiteljorg Indian Art Market in Indianapolis, and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair & Market in Phoenix. Her work is now in the permanent collections of The Heritage Center of Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota (Vermillion), and the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul. Currently a professor of English at Minnesota State University, Mankato, she is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Oyate. She is co-author of Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota (2012), which won a 2013 Minnesota Book Award and the 2014 Hognander Minnesota History Award. She also has a collection of poetry in Dakota and English, Follow the Blackbirds (2013), published by Michigan State University Press. Her poetry has been published widely, including most recently in When the Light Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (2020), Quiltfolk (2020), Rocked by the Waters: Poems of Motherhood (2020), Under Purple Skies: The Minnesota Anthology (2019), New Poets of Native Nations (2018), and POETRY (2018). Her quilts have been featured in American Patchwork & Quilting (January, 2021), Quiltfolk (2020), and Quilts and Human Rights (2016).

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