Experience ‘Gail Tremblay Artistic and Teaching Retrospective’ at The Evergreen State College’s House of Welcome Cultural Arts Center

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With respect and deep appreciation, a retrospective of artist Gail Tremblay is taking place in the Welcome Cultural Arts Center Longhouse on The Evergreen State College campus on Saturday, July 29. She was an artist, writer, teacher and poet. Tremblay’s decades of contributions to the world and specifically with Evergreen are being formally honored. The public is invited to attend.

Gail Tremblay sitting at a table in the Evergreen Longhouse weaving a basket
Gail Tremblay was a Native American artist, writer and educator who used the native techniques of basket weaving with modern materials. A retrospective of her work will happen at Evergreen on July 29 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Photo courtesy: The Evergreen State College

Gail Tremblay: Renowned & Influential Educator

“Gail helped shape our connections with a wide array of native artists,” says Laura VerMeulen, director of the House of Welcome Cultural Arts Center. Because she was a nationally well-known writer and artist, Tremblay’s network of relationships was extremely helpful to attract people from afar to Olympia. Guests came to talk and lead workshops and symposia. “It’s all about relationships,” notes Laura, who is grateful for all of it. “We were really new and not like anything in the nation.” The evolution of the House of Welcome Cultural Arts Center is not just as a building, but as a public service center.

Tremblay was integral to the process of establishing a presence of Native culture at The Evergreen State College. Her influence on students of all diversities spans more than a generation. Native arts and studies at the college grew and expanded as time passed.

The House of Welcome Cultural Arts Center has a magnificent restored Thunderbird at its entrance. The Longhouse is located on the Evergreen campus. Photo courtesy: The Evergreen State College

“Gail had a philosophy of encouraging a lot of students to think more broadly about artwork and writing,” recalls Laura. She was a treasure on campus for anyone who had interest. “She inspired people to do their best.”

Tremblay was a long-standing member of the center’s advisory board. She especially enjoyed selecting tribal grant recipients.

In 2001, she was honored with the Washington State Governor’s Arts and Heritage Award.

Tremblay’s advocacy for diversity and gender equality in the world of academia and arts is a lasting tribute to her life. Her art is on display at Smithsonian Nation Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.

Tremblay passed away in May 2023.

wooden-cabin like fiber studio among the trees
The fiber studio is part of the Native American studies program at Evergreen. The master weaver helps students from sheep to shawl. Photo courtesy: The Evergreen State College

Gail Trembley Retrospective Speakers

At the event on July 29, several people will speak reflect on Tremblay’s life well lived, including:

• Former Evergreen provost Barbara Smith will speak about Tremblay’s scholarship.
• Cathy Denning, contemporary art historian and writer, will talk about Tremblay’s artwork.
• Rebeccah Chamberlain will be reading one of Tremblay’s poems that is on display at Paradise at Mount Rainier and talking about her writing.
• Hisami Yoshida, former student, will share about Tremblay’s impact as a teacher.

Making Film Baskets – Mixing Culture and Media

The artistry of Tremblay’s baskets is notable. “I enjoy keeping traditional basket patterns and use them with new materials,” Trembly explained in a video. A basket maker since childhood, Tremblay started weaving baskets of out scraps from 16mm film from outdated educational films and old movie trailers. One art piece is named “It was never about playing cowboys and Indians.” She used film scraps from a movie that looked at the play of Indian children. “I enjoy the form and playing with forms. That’s how I came to make film baskets,” she said on camera. Color, design and attention to detail are integrated into her pieces.

wooden building with trees around it
Native studies at Evergreen have expanded to include a carving studio. Photo courtesy: The Evergreen State College

Gail Tremblay Authored Books of Poetry

Her books of poetry blend traditional and modern styles:

“Farther From and Too Close to Home”
“Indian Singing in 20th Century America”
“Close to Home”
“Night Gives Women the Word”

Visit The House of Welcome Cultural Arts Center

The House of Welcome Cultural Arts Center hosts cultural events that support Indigenous artists locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. There are performances, lectures, films, cultural art workshops and cultural presentations. Annual events take place including a Holidays Native Arts Fair in December, a tribal youth art-making event and a Fall Community Dinner. A summer art camp for Tribally-enrolled youth happens in August.

Wooden sculpture of a woman in Native American dress with a drum.
Meet the Welcome Woman near the House of Welcome Cultural Arts Center on the campus at The Evergreen State College. Photo courtesy: The Evergreen State College

The Evergreen State College’s Native programs began in 1972, with faculty member Mary Ellen Hillarie of the Lummi tribe. Her articulation and vision of the need for a culturally appropriate facility, as in a longhouse, resulted in its construction. The 10,000-square-foot longhouse was completed in 1995, with a celebration that included many tribal dignitaries. It has classroom and event spaces and a community kitchen. Since then, additional square footage has been added including a carving studio and a fiber studio that has a master weaver.

The public is invited to the retrospective of Gail Tremblay’s visual and literary art works at the House of Welcome Longhouse located at The Evergreen State College on July 29 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cost for the event, but there is a charge for parking on campus. For those who may miss the event, the Longhouse is open for tours during the week where visitors can see artwork on permanent display.

The Evergreen State College

2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia

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