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February 22, 2018

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Library News Release

Release Date: 01/11/2018

'Living Cultures': Photo Exhibits of Pacific Northwest Native and First Nations Cultures Open at The Seattle Public Library Jan. 13

In 2018, The Seattle Public Library and several dozen local organizations are planning a series of events and exhibits around Native Americans and First Nations People, and the work of photographer Edward S. Curtis, during the 150th anniversary of Curtis' birth. This regional effort is called Beyond the Frame: To Be Native.


The Library's exhibits and programs will explore the history, intent and legacy of Curtis and the Native cultures he photographed. A Native American Advisory Committee has been engaged to help guide this work.


For our first exhibit, four nations in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state have collaborated with photographer Sharon Eva Grainger to create the "Living Cultures Project." Twenty-four photographs of Pacific Northwest Native and First Nations cultures, taken over the last 20 years, will be on display Saturday, Jan. 13 to Monday, April 30 at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 3, The Norcliffe Foundation Living Room, 206-386-4636.


Library events and exhibits are free and everyone is welcome. Tickets and reservations are not required to visit the exhibit.


Living Cultures Part I: Celebrating the Resilient Indigenous Cultures of the Pacific Northwest

The Living Cultures exhibit portrays an intricate balancing act. With one foot in the modern world and one foot in the natural world, indigenous people step between their own inherited traditions and the non-native cultures that surround them. Tribal communities are keenly aware of the equilibrium they must maintain in continuing to teach their own languages and customs and to manage the everyday concerns we all share. Through her portraiture and photojournalism, Grainger brings this balancing act into focus.


"The cultures of Native Americans and First Nations people continue to inspire us with their deep commitment to and understanding of the world of which they are an integral part," says Jodee Fenton, managing librarian for special collections at The Seattle Public Library. "The philosophy and art of Northwest Coast Natives provide a unique and rich opportunity to engage with Grainger's photographs of these four tribes."


Grainger celebrates the tribes' continuing resilience and cultural vibrancy through portraits wrapped in the magnificent backdrop of fog and forest, sea and salmon that defines the Pacific Northwest coast.



Four prominent Native American and First Nations leaders have stepped forward to provide interpretation for the images in this show:


  • Tlingit Nation - Jim Thomas, elder, traditional chief and statesman


  • Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw Nation - Barbara Cranmer, entrepreneur and 'Namgis filmmaker


  • Lummi Nation - Shirley Williams, RN, educator and community leader


  • Haida Nation - Elsie Gaele Il'skide, traditional Haida wool weaver entrepreneur with a specialty in cultural tourism


This project would not have been possible without the support of the Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw, Haida, Tlingit and Lummi Nations. Their participation in the making of images, sharing their stories, opening their homes and including outsiders in their most sacred of cultural traditions has been at the heart of this mission. 




An Evening with Sharon Grainger - 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 1, Microsoft Auditorium, 206-386-4636. Sharon Grainger discusses her work, in particular as a portrait photographer.


An Afternoon with Jim Thomas - 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 4 at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 1, Microsoft Auditorium, 206-386-4636. Jim Thomas, Tlingit elder, will speak in his Native tradition about current shared issues.


Living Cultures Part II: Beyond the Frame

This second exhibit will look at selected images from Curtis' monumental "The North American Indian," paired with Grainger's images of contemporary imagery and portraiture. It will also feature regalia from the four tribes. "Living Cultures: Beyond the Frame" will be on display Friday, Feb. 16 to Monday, April 30 at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 8 Gallery, 206-386-4636.


These exhibits are supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and Gary Kunis. We would also like to thank the people of the Tlingit, Haida, Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw and Lummi Nations for their generous support and participation.


For more information, call the Library at 206-386-4636, visit or Ask a Librarian.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director

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