RAPID CITY, S.D. — On September 22, a brand-new exhibit opened up at the Journey Museum and Learning Center. Bird Songs will feature original watercolor works by Arthur Short Bull.
Short Bull is a South Dakota native and tribal member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. Before painting, he studied at the University of Nebraska and went on to become a psychotherapist specializing in treating addiction. He then became an ordained minister and worked for over a decade until his decision to pursue a career in art.
After a meeting with Oglala Lakota artist Andrew Standing Soldier, Short Bull learned that he could have a career in art. He started trying out different media until finding a passion for watercolors.
“This is something that’s beyond a lot of people’s capability, to have that kind of patience and deliberateness of that,” museum executive director Troy Kilpatrick explained. “And I think that’s something to keep in mind as you take a look through this amazing exhibit.”
The idea for Bird Songs came to Short Bull around the time of the 200-year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Research on the expedition described how the explorers collected and killed thousands of animals for scientific documentation.
To the Lakota people, however, these animals were already known and had names.
Combined with his love of the natural world, Short Bull began painting birds and animals native to the lands of the Oceti Sakowin. On his works, he includes both the English and original Lakota names as a means of preserving.
“All of these birds already had names from his own culture” Kilpatrick explained. “And so part of this was him bringing back the spirit of his own culture by painting the birds that were a part of their surroundings.”
The exhibit is open to the public through early January.