The Language Arts and Humanities Division at Seminole State College will host its Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium on Sept. 28 and 29, from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. each day.
The free symposium will be held in the Jeff Johnson Fine Arts Center on the SSC campus. The event is open to the public, and area high schools and middle schools are welcome to bring their students to enjoy two days filled with an eclectic mix of musical performances, creative writings, dramatic readings, artistic presentations, and dances by a variety of professional and emerging Oklahoma artists and scholars.
Russ Tallchief will serve as the event’s Keynote Speaker, taking the stage at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Tallchief is an Osage writer, actor and dancer. As a Southern Straight style dancer, Tallchief served as Taildancer for the Grayhorse District of the Osage Nation for many years. He was a featured dancer in the touring exhibition “Dance! American Art, 1830 – 1960,” curated by the Detroit Institute of Arts, during which he performed at the host venues for the exhibition, including the Denver Art Museum and Crystal Bridges. He has danced throughout the United States as well as at the Grand Palais in Paris, the Centre for American Arts, and Orenda Gallery in Paris.
With an emphasis in dramatic writing, Tallchief’s original play “The Chainsaw Artist” premiered in 2017 at Earth Rebirth, a nonprofit in Norman focused on educating the public about sustainable options for providing food, energy, and water. The play was performed the following year at the historic Constantine Theater in Pawhuska, on the Osage Nation Reservation, where the play is set. Tallchief’s play “Jacobson and the Kiowa Five,” evolved out of improvised performance art pieces he directed at the Jacobson House Native Art Center. Currently, he is developing a large-scale puppet show, similar to The Lion King on Broadway, in honor of the Osage Nation’s sesquicentennial celebration to be held in October. He is also writing a biography chronicling the lives of his great-aunts, the world-renowned ballerinas Maria and Marjorie Tallchief.
In addition to writing, Tallchief is an actor performing in select indigenous theatre and film works. Tallchief was cast in Gregory Hinton’s one-man show “More Sky,” based on the life of Cherokee playwright Lynn Riggs, which was performed at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in the Pride District of Tulsa. Tallchief was honored to reprise the role this past spring at the University of Oklahoma where Lynn Riggs studied and received a posthumous doctorate degree. Tallchief also appeared in Vicki Mooney’s (Cherokee) play Hoop Jumper and Jaisey Bates’ The Day We Were Born. Tallchief performed in the film “Lord Finn/Native Hearts” by Al Mertens, which was shot entirely in Oklahoma. And, during the summer of 2021, Tallchief appeared in a dance scene in the film Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese.
Tallchief currently teaches writing at Oklahoma City Community College. He has also taught writing at Rose State College and Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City.
Tallchief earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Oklahoma City University, his Master of Arts in English from Bemidji State University, and his Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Central Oklahoma. Since then, Tallchief has served as Director of Arts and Exhibitions for the First Americans Museum and Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion at Oklahoma City University. He served as Art Galleries Editor for Native Peoples Magazine for 15 years and worked in both the Education Department and Public Affairs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
Jim Wilson will be the event’s Special Guest. He will present at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 29. Wilson’s presentation, “Homeland Returns,” focuses on the project that he and co-principal investigator Ervan Garrison have been doing to introduce the University of Georgia community to Native American tribal programs with ties to the Southeast, including Oklahoma. Wilson lectures in the English Department for the University of Georgia (UGA), where he teaches First Year Writing and Honors Multicultural Literature. He first taught composition and literature on faculty at Seminole State College in Seminole, Oklahoma, and creative writing for the Summer Arts Academy of the Chickasaw Nation. Wilson holds an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University, an MA in cultural geography from the University of Iowa, and a MA in Near Eastern archaeology from the American University of Beirut. He was also a Fulbright-Hays scholar in the Geography Department at the University of Jordan. His research interests engage humanities and social sciences, and he believes that writing builds doorways through walls.
The Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium was established by the faculty of the SSC Language Arts and Humanities Division in the spring of 2011 as a free, fully accessible celebration of Oklahoma creative expression, in all of its diverse forms.
“We hope this symposium will encourage all those who attend and participate to continue to find passion in their creative arts and appreciate the role the fine arts play in education and in Oklahoma culture,” Jessica Isaacs, Symposium Director and Professor of SSC Language Arts and Humanities, said. High school and middle school teachers or counselors wishing to bring students to the event, or anyone wishing to bring large groups to enjoy the Symposium, should contact Isaacs for information about bus parking and other necessary arrangements at 405-382-9209 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.