A Meskwaki artist is working to open an indigenous art gallery and event space in Iowa City. Multidisciplinary artist and writer Dawson Davenport wants to magnify the voices of other Native American creators.
Dawson Davenport says the issues young native people are facing today are different from those of past generations. Artists play an important role in grappling with these contemporary challenges, and retaining cultural memory, he says.
"We don’t have residential boarding schools and those things. We have other things that we’re fighting: climate change being one of those things. Also, erasure," Davenport said. “I kind of wanted to create a space for us Native people so we can have our voice as well. So that we can share some of these things we go through as young Native people because…we’re dealing with different things than our parents were.”
With roots in Tama and Iowa City, Davenport hopes to create a place for Native creators, musicians, poets and authors to share their experiences and build community. Davenport says they shouldn’t feel like they have to leave Iowa to get their work out in the world.
“I only feel like it’s necessary and right that they have a place to put that out there. Not just out on the West Coast, not just in California or Chicago or all these big cities, but right here in Iowa City. Because we have stuff to offer,” Davenport said.
Davenport says he wants to showcase the work of artists from tribes that were in the area historically.
“With this gallery, one of things I really want to focus on is the Woodland Tribes, the tribes that inhabited Iowa at one point,” he said. “So I really want to showcase them first and kind of share that history with the audience. I want to show, this is what it was before it became Iowa in 1847.”
Davenport is in the process of raising start-up funds and plans to open the gallery later this spring.