Haskell campus populated by artwork of past and present

Lucas Nappo, a Haskell Indian Nations University student from Fort Hall, Idaho, helped paint some new pieces of art on the campus in 2010. The metal-fabricated Appaloosa horses were decorated by a number of student artists and add to the growing collection of campus art. Nappo is of the Shoshone Bannock tribe.

If you’re short on time, an early or late lunch break visit to the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum is a perfect primer to some of the beautiful art found on the campus of Haskell University.

Open from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the center, 155 Indian Ave., has on display contemporary and older pieces, as well as traditional art in the form of baskets, textiles and beaded objects. Students, alumni, friends and family of the university are included in the collection.

There is no cost to attend the museum, though donations are accepted.

Despite a lifelong love of the fine arts, Josh Woosypitti didn’t know when he came to Haskell Indian Nations University that the school’s tradition of the arts would shout to him at every turn.

“I was always raised around artists and painters, and I was aware that there was a lot of famous (Native American) artists, but I didn’t know Haskell’s history behind it until after being here awhile, you notice it,” says the senior from Anadarko, Okla. “It’s everywhere on campus. I mean, it’s hard not to notice it.”

At Haskell, art is outside, it’s inside, it’s in classrooms and hallways, even nestled among the book displays in the library. It’s obvious — totem polls and statues — and discreet — as in the intricate adornment in the auditorium and in the creative design and student-led construction of Stidham Union.

In fact, there’s so much art, staff and faculty are encouraged to check out pieces to put in their offices. The policy is something Steve Prue, executive assistant to the president, was sure to take advantage of when he came to work for his alma mater a year ago.

“I have a piece in my office painted by Arthur Short Bull, who is a relative of mine. It was a watercolor depicting a child frozen in the snow at Wounded Knee in 1898,” Prue says. “It’s a relative who did that and it’s something that, of course, means a lot to all Lakota people.”

For those wanting to know what’s what in classic and contemporary Native American art on campus, Bobbi Rahder, curator of the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, hits the highlights sprinkled around the campus at 23rd and Barker streets.

The highlights

Haskell Cultural Center and Museum: For those short on time, this is the mother lode of artwork. There are sculptures, photographs — famous portraits of tribal members by Frank A. Rinehart — paintings and traditional, functional artwork like beading, weaving and textiles.

Many of the pieces are accompanied by their history, making the place nearly a spatial textbook of beauty and history. Moreover, the works span the ages — from more than 100 years old, such as the Rinehart portraits, to contemporary works by current students like Woosypitti and recent graduates.

Also, just outside the entrance is a work by Barry Coffin called the “War Mother Memorial” — a sculpture meant to depict all the mothers of all the soldiers in Haskell’s history.

On the grounds: The Haskell campus is home to both professional and amateur works by students, alumni and friends of the university.

One of the most visible pieces is the bright “Medicine Wheel Totem” created by Doug Coffin, brother of Barry, at the entrance of Coffin Sports Complex, named after his father, Tony.

Among the newest pieces of art are several colorful painted horses that line the path from the Coffin Sports Complex to the west side of campus.

Also visible to those walking the campus is a newer bronze statue from artist Craig Dan Goseyun called “Apache Hoop and Game Player,” located in a courtyard near the school’s longstanding gazebo.

For those looking for less obvious art, the Stidham Union is a piece of artwork in itself. Made in 1965 by students who learned masonry and welding, the building has intricate brickwork and a totem poll as a support near the entrance.

In the buildings: For those wanting to explore more than just the exterior art, many of Haskell’s buildings contain brilliant works.

In the entrance to Navarre Hall, the school’s administration building, sits “Comrade in Mourning,” a marble carving by Allan Houser that Haskell lent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Indian.

The original home of “Comrade in Mourning” before its trip to Washington and back was in the school’s auditorium, which is not devoid of art since “Comrade’s” move to Navarre; rather it has both murals from alumnus Franklin Gritts in the lobby and especially artful masonry in the auditorium itself.

In Haskell’s library, Tommaney Hall, reside several prints from famed artist Dick West, a graduate of the university who is well-known for his depictions of Native Americans in art.

And finally, anyone taking a peek into Pontiac Hall will be greeted by murals in the hallways and classrooms. Many of them are anonymous works, whose artists didn’t leave their name or time period. Some are even unfinished works with pencil scratches on the wall tracing where the paint should have gone.