A new educational opportunity from Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College has turned into a collaborative project with the Herkimer Home State Historic Site.
Amber Spadea, school and family educator for Wellin Museum, said the museum recently opened an exhibit by Los Angeles-based artist Frohawk Two Feathers called “You Can Fall: The War of the Mourning Arrows (An Introduction to the Americas and a Requiem for Willem Ferdinand.”
Spadea said during a telephone interview Monday Two Feathers has “created his own idea or retelling of history based on actual history. This exhibition takes place in New Jersey and New York. He researched Iroquois and Mohawks. Instead of telling the story how we’re used to hearing it, he told it through the eyes of marginalized people.” She said the artwork portrays events that took place between 1787 and 1789.
This inspired the museum to have high school students do a similar project, where they come up with their own narratives and create their own artwork to go along with it.
“It’s creating an interdisciplinary project where they can be creative and learn about history and contemporary artists all at the same time,” said Megan Austin, manager of educational programming at Wellin Museum.
Austin added, “A big part of the common core curriculum is visual literacy. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Karen Sheckells, director of the Herkimer Home State Historic Site, said in an email, “The students will write their own creative narrative and create a portrait of artifact inspired by real-life (the Battle of Oriskany and Gen. Herkimer’s life) and Two Feather’s re-imagined creative narrative and artisitic process.”
Students got to see the Two Feathers exhibit and visit Herkimer Home, and to use the inspiration from those visits to do their own project.
Sheckells said Herkimer Home is excited to participate in this educational opportunity.
“History and art go hand-in-hand,” said Sheckells, during a telephone interview Monday. “It’s an opportunity, through Hamilton College, to showcase General Herkimer.”
Sheckells also said it was a chance to reach beyond the Herkimer and Little Falls region to educate people about the heroic deeds of Gen. Herkimer.
The students’ tour on Friday revolved around Herkimer’s life, and specifically his role in the Battle of Oriskany, Sheckells said.
Three New York Mills High School students took part in the tour at Herkimer Home on Friday with site interpreter Brian Heffron. He talked about what made Herkimer Home so unique and grand for its time.
“It’s all about perception,” said Heffron during the tour. “So that you walk away with an understanding of Herkimer and the power he has here.”
Page 2 of 2 - Heffron explained one way Herkimer showed his wealth was by having a large hallway in his home, to let in a cross breeze (since their were no air conditioners at the time) and for dancing during parties, where two lines of partners would line up for what is called contra dancing.
“These were tough times back then. They enjoyed getting away, much like we do today,” he said.
He also explained how it was dangerous for Herkimer’s widow, Maria, and how the home became a target.
Austin noted the students’ visit to Herkimer Home on Friday is “making history even more current for them, so it doesn’t just feel like just another story…It’s more of a living history.”
Teachers will be work with the students over the few months to help them develop their ideas in time for an opening in December, where their projects will be unveiled during a reception at Wellin Museum.
For more information about the exhibit, go to http://www.hamilton.edu/wellin/index.html#exhibition-youcanfall