Vail Cancels Indigenous Artist's Residency Over Pro-Palestinian Post

Vail, Colorado, cancels artist-in-residency program for Lakota artist Danielle SeeWalker due to concerns over her pro-Palestinian social media post. SeeWalker was to engage with the local community through art events, but the town cited the potential politicizing of the public art program.

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Vail Cancels Indigenous Artist's Residency Over Pro-Palestinian Post

Vail Cancels Indigenous Artist's Residency Over Pro-Palestinian Post

The town of Vail, Colorado, has abruptly canceled an upcoming artist-in-residency program for Lakota artist Danielle SeeWalker. SeeWalker was invited in January to participate in a three-week residency by Vail's Art in Public Places program, making her the first Native American offered this opportunity.

Why this matters: The cancellation of SeeWalker's residency highlights the growing trend of censorship and suppression of artistic expression, particularly when it comes to pro-Palestinian views. This incident has broader implications for the freedom of speech and the ability of artists to address political and social issues through their work.

SeeWalker, a Denver-based artist, accepted the residency offer, expecting to engage with the local community through multiple art events, including working with youth, painting a mural, holding an exhibition, and giving a talk at the Symposium. She signed a contract and turned down other job opportunities to fulfill her obligation to the residency.

However, the residency was canceled due to concerns over SeeWalker's pro-Palestinian social media post. In early March, she posted a painting on Instagram featuring a woman wearing a keffiyeh, a scarf symbolizing support for Palestine. The post sparked overwhelmingly positive reactions, prompting SeeWalker to create 60 prints of the painting, titled "G is for Genocide," to raise money for the UN Crisis Relief Fund in Gaza.

In early May, the town of Vail started receiving emails expressing concerns about SeeWalker's post, citing the potential politicizing of the public art program. Vail town manager Russell Forrest stated, "The concern was around the very polarizing issue in Israel and Gaza right now. We didn't want public funds connected to a project about a polarizing geopolitical issue that is still playing out."

SeeWalker expressed her disappointment, saying, "I was really excited about it. I was really excited as a person of color to bring my art to a place that is...not really known for its diversity." She attempted to explain her position and understand the community's concerns, but felt they "just talked over me and ended the call."

The cancellation of SeeWalker's residency is part of a larger trend of censorship and suppression of artistic expression, particularly when it comes to pro-Palestinian views. It follows similar incidents, including the cancellation of Palestinian artist Samia Halaby's exhibit at Indiana University and Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin's performance at Ballet Ireland.

SeeWalker's artwork, "G is for Genocide," was created to raise awareness about the parallels between the plight of Native Americans in the U.S. and the crisis in Gaza. "It's about erasing a culture, about taking land," she explained. "Me as an Indigenous person, this is what happened to my ancestors." The cancellation has soured SeeWalker to the idea of participating in the program, even if it were to be offered again.

Key Takeaways

  • Vail, Colorado cancels artist-in-residency program for Lakota artist Danielle SeeWalker.
  • SeeWalker's pro-Palestinian social media post sparked concerns, leading to cancellation.
  • She was to engage with the local community through art events, but turned down other opportunities.
  • The incident highlights growing trend of censorship and suppression of artistic expression.
  • SeeWalker's artwork aimed to raise awareness about parallels between Native American and Palestinian struggles.