By RENEE FITE
Two local emerging artists were recently recognized at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum’s 2013 Student Art Show.
Coleman Lisan Tiger Blair and Ian McAlpin won top awards. Tiger Blair, a junior at Sequoyah High School, won the Willard Stone Memorial Sculpture Award for his sculpture, “YO-NA (Bear).” McAlpin, a senior at Tahlequah High School, won the Frances Rosser Brown Cultural Award for “Snake Boy.”
The show featured 117 pieces of art entered by 89 students of tribal heritage from 15 area schools, in grades 7-12. Awards were given for each grade in three categories for each grade.
Lisan, the son of Donnie Ray and artist Dana Tiger, doesn’t remember a time he wasn’t creating art.
“Honestly, it’s a little hard to say how I got started,” said Lisan. “I got my first prize in grade school, third place, but I thought mine was better so I guess that was when I got serious about art.”
Sculpture is his preferred medium, although he does paint.
“I sketch still, but clay sculpture is what most of my art is done with,” he said. “I like to make the craziest things I can come up with sometimes. I like using my imagination for art.”
His family is very supportive.
“All of my family and friends encourage me, so I’m very lucky. I have a good art teacher at Sequoyah High School and had good art teachers at Sequoyah and Keys when I was younger,” he said.
Lisan has won many awards already, including first place at the Five Tribes shows several times and Best of Show and or first at the Tulsa Indian Art Show, Santa Fe Indian Art Market, and the Cherokee National Holidays.
“The main piece I sent to the Heard Youth Art Show that is going on now got broken being shipped, but I got the award last year,” he said. “And I won Best of Show and first place a few times at Red Earth.”
Ian McAlpin started drawing when he was about 5 years old. He is the son of Gary McAlpin and Kelly Gregory.
“I was always scribbling and stuff before then, but you couldn’t really tell what I was drawing up to that point,” Ian said. “I loved to draw so much that in class, it often became a problem with the teacher.”
Art classes in elementary school and middle school failed to promote any creativity, McAlpin said, so his art skills were restricted to creating on his own time.
Once he reached Tahlequah High School and enrolled in a drawing class with Tony Amason, his art skills flourished.
“I starting doing full-size pieces,” said Ian. “I attribute my skills today to Mr. Amason’s perseverance and encouragement.”
He’s seen many kids go into Amason’s classes without having any talent and themselves saying the full extent of their art consisted of drawing stick people.
“Amason’s philosophy is that anyone can create art if they put their mind to it. Many of these students have left the class with art scholarships to various colleges across the United States,” Ian said. “Without his promotion of creativity among his students, I would definitely not be where I am today.”
He hopes his mentor has the opportunity to continue to encourage students.
“It is scary to see how the budget for art in public schools dropping so low. I see so much talent in the high school, yet the school’s primary focus is always revolved around sports,” he said. “Many of my friends have won awards in various national contests, yet the school continues to lower the budget for the art program in public schools. One of my art classes this semester has over 35 kids and is very crowded for space.”
Other inspiration comes from area artists, including Roy Boney, Joseph Erb and Murv Jacob.
“They have all inspired me with reincorporating my culture in the modern day’s art styles,” he said. “My Cherokee heritage has inspired much of my art, including the two pieces I entered into the art show, ‘Snake Boy,’ and ‘Clash of Legends.’”
The latter won an honorable mention.
Ian’s art mostly consists of surrealism and semi-impressionism, and his works are primarily in graphite, charcoal, and acrylic.
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