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Archive for Monday, May 14, 2001

Millennium project draws artist to Guam

May 14, 2001

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Lawrence artist Wayne Wildcat is packing his bags for a trip to the Pacific island. But instead of being crammed with clothes, some of his suitcases will carry layers of prints and materials to build picture frames.

"And I'm taking a large quantity of paint, enough for 150 kids," he said.

Wildcat is going to the isle to participate in a 1 1/2-month artist-in-residence program that is part of the America Creates for the Millennium program, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Wildcat was chosen for the millennium project about 1 1/2 years ago, and Guam officials contacted him about six months ago to begin arranging a residency.

"I can't say why they picked me," Wildcat said. "I'm thrilled to be going. It certainly is an honor. " I've never been out of the country, except for a (short trip) to Mexico."

Wildcat and his wife, Tollie, will leave Wednesday to catch a flight from Kansas City International Airport to Houston. From there, they fly to Hawaii and then to Tiyan, Guam. The trip will take about 18 hours.

"It's all-expenses paid," Wildcat said, adding that he also will receive a $5,000 a month salary and be provided living quarters.

Once settled in on Guam, Wildcat will hang two art shows -- one at the Hilton hotel, the another at the Guam Arts Center. He will teach from three to five times a week at seven different schools, teach a one-day workshop at a Chamoru village, and talk with professors and students at the University of Guam in the central district of Mangilao.

"I show my paintings and give a slide show about the process (of creating the paintings)," he said. "I like to give a history lesson of each of my paintings, and I talk about my idea of history and art combining."

Wildcat often incorporates history and real-life people into his oil and acrylic paintings. He recently finished "Solidarity" for a library in Pittsburg. The large painting depicts the "Amazon Army," a large group of women who banded together in 1921 to protest the working conditions in the mines in the Pittsburg area. He is working on "Quest for Freedom," a 9 -foot-by-30-foot painting portraying the civil rights movement that will be displayed next year in the Lyndon B. Johnson library in Austin, Tex.

Many of his paintings address the history of American Indians, ranging from the displacement of Indian children in boarding schools to the Battle of Little Bighorn and Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

For the past several weeks, the Wildcats have been downloading information about Guam from the Internet. They discovered that Guam, which is under U.S. jurisdiction, has frequent earthquakes and typhoons, but few snakes. The water surrounding the island is home to coral reefs and spinner dolphins.

The tropical, volcanic island is a melting pot of Micronesian, American, Asian and the indigenous Chamoru cultures.

"I know there are ancient cave paintings there," Wildcat said. "It is believed the island has been populated for 6,000 years or longer. The island is trying to keep its history alive, which is very easy to lose."

-- Features-arts editor Jan Biles can be reached at 832-7146.

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