Crazy Horse Memorial offers cultural education
By David Arredondo
People arrive in the masses during the summer to the in-progress monument, the world’s largest mountain carving, and are encouraged to visit the Native American Educational & Cultural Center, a wood-and-rock-walled building where artists from around the country set up vending booths with their elegant works of art. Completed in 1996, the rocks used in constructing the center were blasted from Thunderhead Mountain, the site on which the monument sits.
Around a dozen mostly Native American artists and crafters gather daily in the Educational & Cultural Center to sell, as well as demonstrate, their skills. The artisans’ work includes traditional quillwork and beadwork as well as traditional regalia, jewelry, silverwork and painted pieces.
Along with purchasing their art, fascinated tourists can visit each booth for the opportunity to chat one-on-one with the vendors–who are not employed by Crazy Horse–about their cultures, customs, art and other relevant issues.
“I think the vendors add immeasurably to the experience of the visitors,” said Pat Dobbs, media relations coordinator and general spokesman for Crazy Horse Memorial. “The visitors can have an informal conversation with the vendors and learn about customs without any book or lecturing.”
To do this right, you'd put more of displays in the side room and vendors in the main room. You'd have Natives actively demonstrating their craft, perhaps teaching classes to kids. And not just sitting behind tables like vendors everywhere.
This isn't a criticism of the vendors, but of the menorial's management. "Educational & Cultural Center" is a glorified name for what's really an isolated vendor area. If the Memorial's goal is education, then educate. Don't just offer space to sell art; pay people to make art so visitors can see the process.
For more on the Crazy Horse Memorial, see Mixed Feelings About Crazy Horse Memorial and 21st Native Americans' Day at Crazy Horse.