Ho-Chunk sculpture proposed at Nature At The Confluence Campus

Scale model of the proposed sculpture overlooking Turtle Creek.

Truman Lowe, a nationally acclaimed artist and member of the Wisconsin Ho-Chunk nation, has created a concept for an outdoor sculpture inspired by traditional dwellings called “Ciporoke” (chee-poe-doe-kay) found at Ke-Chunk, a Winnebago Ho-Chunk village which existed ca. 1830 along Turtle Creek in South Beloit, IL. This work of contemporary art would honor the Ho-Chunk Native Americans who once cared for the land at the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Rock River. This would be South Beloit’s first public sculpture and would be located on a bank overlooking Turtle Creek at Nature At The Confluence, an environmental learning center.

This sculpture is being proposed by Jo Ortel, Nystrom Professor of Art History at Beloit College and author of Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe.

A student team in Ortel’s Environmental Art class in Spring 2018 proposed this sculpture as part of this class. Ezra Rodgers is a Beloit College senior who was part of the student team in Ortel’s class. In collaboration with the students, Lowe created a small-scale model loosely based on a cirporoke (single-family lodge) out of willow & wire to diagram how the metal sculpture could look. Ezra Rodgers proposed the sculpture concept in September 2018 to South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl and commissioners and they unanimously and officially approved the installation of the sculpture.

ABOUT TRUMAN LOWE: Truman Lowe is a nationally acclaimed artist and one of Wisconsin’s foremost contemporary sculptors. Lowe was born and raised in the Ho-Chunk community at Black River Falls, Wisconsin. His work utilizes natural materials to intertwine philosophical musings, personal experiences, and Native American history.

Truman Lowe has held the positions of Professor of Art (Sculpture) and Coordinator of Native American Studies Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s received many honors in his life, including a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship in 1994 to pursue sculpture and the commissioning by the White House in Washington D.C. in 1997 to create a sculpture for a yearlong exhibition to honor Native Americans. Most notably, from 2000 to 2008 Truman Lowe held the position of Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian Institution.

ABOUT THE SCULPTURE: Lowe has proposed this metal sculpture to stand at 9 ½ x 9 ½ x 7 ½’’, constructed almost solely of curved metal rods which will be welded to form an artist’s interpretation, rather than replica, of a traditional Ho-Chunk dwelling from ca. 1830. The context of the sculpture will be conveyed in a small plaque, roughly 3 ½’ tall, depicting the historical Ke-Chunk village, honoring the contemporary Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, and describing Truman Lowe’s work as a sculpture-based storyteller.  The fabrication and installation of this work will be completed by Hooper Corporation, a Madison-based construction company. Truman has a longstanding relationship with the Hooper Corporation, they have fabricated several metal works he designed – including an outdoor bench (Ojibwa Stream, 1992, made of polished stainless steel & rocks, 18 x 48 x 288”, permanently installed at Cloquet Community College, Cloquet, MN) and Bird Effigy (aluminum, 10 x 16’), which was exhibited in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC during Clinton’s presidency. It is currently installed on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI.

SCULPTURE SITE LOCATION: In consultation with Therese Oldenburg, Executive Director of Nature at the Confluence, a site has been selected for the sculpture high up the south bank overlooking Turtle Creek. The sculpture will be visible from the Learning Center, but because it is an open-form structure, it will be unobtrusive and the bronze-like metal finish will blend in with surrounding vegetation. This location will allow the public to explore the sculpture and get a feel for how large such a structure would have been historically. Please see map and photo at the end of this document.

PROGRAM INTEGRATION: The historic Ke-Chunk village is a prominent part of the history of the confluence and this sculpture will directly impact Nature At The Confluence’s programming goals of telling the story of Ke-Chunk village. A programming initiative called “Ke-Chunk At The Confluence” will be launched in 2019 which will teach children and adults what life was like in the historic Ho-Chunk village. This programming will use research and materials prepared by Sara Pfannkuche and Dan Bartlett of Midwest Heritage Resource Consultants. Nature At The Confluence has plans to work with Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to demonstrate cirporoke building and other Ho-Chunk cultural crafts such as flute making.

Through this programming visitors will come away with not only an appreciation of the history of the Ke-Chunk village, but the vitality and contributions of the Ho-Chunk culture in the 21st century.

FUNDRAISING: Fundraising is currently underway for this project estimated at $30,000. Truman Lowe has generously waived his artist fee, and this generosity is valued at approximately $10,000. If you are interested in supporting this project with a tax-deductible donation, you make a contribution to the “Truman Lowe Sculpture at The Confluence Fund” at Be Active Outdoors, Inc. Be Active Outdoors, Inc is a Wisconsin-based 501(c)3 organization that supports efforts to engage more people in being active outdoors. For further information please contact info@beactiveoutdoors.org or project coordinator  Jo Ortel, Nystrom Professor of Art History at Beloit College, ortelj@beloit.edu

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