Wa-Pai-Shone Gallery opens at Stewart Cultural Center & Museum

The new Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum is not only a showcase of the history of the Stewart Indian School, but also a celebration of tradition and culture still thriving today.

The Cultural Center’s Wa-Pai-Shone Gallery, opens Jan. 20 with the exhibit “Indigenous Voices of the Great Basin.” This exhibit of Native American contemporary art will show through Oct. 1, and will be followed by ongoing rotating exhibits curated by Great Basin Native Artists.

“Displaying contemporary art, by professional Native American artists within our cultural center is tangible evidence that the American Indian culture continues to be vibrant and evolving,” said Stacey Montooth, Executive Director of the Nevada Indian Commission. “The extraordinary pieces that we will share with the public will elevate the Native experience and support our communities as we tell our Native truth.”

The Wa-Pai-Shone Gallery – a portmanteau to recognize the names of the three Tribal nations (Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone) from which the initial student body at the Stewart Indian School represented, got its start in 1934. Then superintendent of Stewart Indian School, Alida Bowler, led the effort to operate three art galleries named Wa-Pai-Shone at which students from the school sold and received the proceeds from their art work. This venture into entrepreneurship introduced a new philosophy of self-determination.

“We want to honor all of the Stewart artists as well as the progressive Wa-Pai-Shone Co-op they founded in the 1930s,” Museum Director Bobbi Rahder said. “We are excited to feature the art of the Great Basin Native artists in our permanent exhibits, and now also in this exhibit of contemporary art. Melissa Melero-Moose has done an amazing job consulting with us so we can recognize these important artists.”

Sharing the work of regional Native American artists is not the only milestone for the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum, as the Wa-Pai-Shone Gallery will now include recent works of the Great Basin Native Artists.

 “It’s amazing that the Wa-Pai-Shone Gallery will be the new home for our artists, plus the connection to the previous student artists from Stewart brings our story full circle,” said Melissa Melero-Moose, a Paiute/Modoc Native American, who is a mixed media visual artist and founder of the art collective, the Great Basin Native Artists.

Since 2014, the GBNA has worked to preserve and promote the work of Native American artists living and working across the Great Basin. Committed to celebrating and sustaining Native American art, culture, community and tradition, these artists are largely from the Paiute, Washoe, Shoshone and Maidu.

The Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum – long a dream of alumni and tribal leaders in the state – opened its doors on Monday, Jan. 13. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free. Stewart Indian School is located at 5500 Snyder Ave., in Carson City.

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