Osage artist creates façade for Crystal Bridges arts complex

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Osage artist Addie Roanhorse took inspiration for the design for the facade of the Crystal Bridges Museum’s new performing and visual arts complex from a finger-woven belt, which is part of Osage women’s regalia.

Roanhorse was the guest speaker at the first ArtNight of 2019 Tuesday at the Bartlesville Art Association Design Center, 500 S. Dewey Ave.

The complex, Roanhorse said, is located between the Crystal Bridges Museum and the town square in Bentonville, Ark.

“Closer to the town square is an old Kraft cheese plant. They’re keeping the structure … but they are completely gutting it,” she said. “I was asked if I could design a pattern to be etched on glass that would go on the façade of this building. … I’m honored to do it.”

She went to Bentonville, and the director said, “I just want to honor the people who were here pre-colonial. … It felt really good that they wanted to honor Osage people. That was our hunting territory way before any of this.”
She named the design “sway,” explaining her intention that the design would suggest movement and be based on the finger-woven belt worn in Osage women’s regalia.

The belt is fixed at the waist of Osage women’s regalia, and flows down the back.

“Women wear it, and when you dance, it starts swaying. When I was a little girl, I used to think that was the coolest thing. I’d be with my aunties, and we’d be dancing. … it’s just this moment and this feeling that, again, only Osages would truly understand,” Roanhorse explained.

In creating the design, Roanhorse used graphic art principles, simplified the design in the belt and created the suggestion of movement.

“The entryway of the design will actually go up and over in a very large scale. Then there’s the façade on this side, and it goes up five stories. So, it will have the design, really tiny, going all the way up. … At night they’ll shoot movies on it,” Roanhorse said. “When I went and saw it, it was amazing what they’ve done. I got to work with architects in Chicago. … It’s just been a great experience. … They plan on opening February 2020.”


Addie Roanhorse at Bartlesville Art Association’s ArtNight, February 2019.

Roanhorse is a graphic designer and photographer for the Osage Nation.

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