Fall Exhibitions Related Programs

Community Opening Day

Opening Event: October 9, 1–6 PM

Rain Date: October 10

The First Water is the Body


Athena LaTocha: After the Falls

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend, the Art Center will open its fall exhibitions, The First Water Is the Body and Athena LaTocha: After the Falls on October 9, 1–6 PM. The First Water Is the Body features the work of 16 makers that belong to and operate in relation with Indigenous communities across the USA and Canada. The event will include tours of the exhibitions, samples of Indigenous foods provided by Buffalo Jump NYC,  and performances throughout the day by the Silver Cloud Singers & Dancers, an intertribal Native American singing & dance troupe that weaves together traditional with contemporary Native song & dance. Turtle 2 Turtle: Marcey Tree in the Wind, Tony Moon Hawk, and Cheyenne Little Moon of the Ramapough Lenape Nation will also be on-site during the event, educating and selling their art.

The event will begin at 1 PM with a blessing and land acknowledgment recognizing that the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is situated in Lenapehoking, the ancestral land of the Lenape people, and honoring all Indigenous communities, past, present, and future. The acknowledgment will be performed by John Scott-Richardson. John Scott-Richardson’s maternal and paternal lineage is (Saponi, Nansemond, Tuscarora) enrolled member Haliwa-Saponi Nation of North Carolina. John received his BA in Liberal Arts degree from Atlantic Christian College. He studies Psychology, Commercial Design, and Business. He began theatrical arts by writing/directing youth advocacy plays. John has a strong passion for storytelling and changing the perspective of native people. John worked as a cultural educator for the NC Commission of Indian Affairs. He was a board member of the American Indian Community House and helped found Images for Inclusion, a non-profit doing work in South American countries. Recently he has stepped into the role of Theater Program Director with Amerinda Indian Arts directing his first double feature radio play; It Came From Across the Big Pond and Files of The Indin Police. Prior work included performing on broadway and off-broadway productions. He is a SAG union actor in The Heart Stays and The Politician (Netflix) and additional several feature films, tv shows, and theater productions. His passions are working with the youth, American Indian culture, and traditions with his highest value being family.

Shan Goshorn, This River Runs Red

Shan Goshorn, This River Runs Red, 2018,
Arches watercolor paper splints, printed with archival inks, acrylic paint, artificial sinew.
Collection of Jody and Mike Wahlig.

Athena LaTocha in her studio

Athena LaTocha
Photo Courtesy Athena LaTocha Studio

VACNJ Curator Mary Birmingham will lead tours of The First Water is the Body and Athena LaTocha on the following dates. These tours are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click the links below to register.

Monday, October 11, 1 PM
Saturday, November 13, 1 PM
Saturday, December 4, 1 PM

The Silver Cloud Dancers & Singers

Opening Day Event Schedule (each performance will last approximately 20 minutes)
1 PM: Welcome and blessing ceremony, followed by a performance of the SilverCloud Singers
2:30 PM, 3:30 PM, 4:30 PM: Performances by the SilverCloud Singers

The SilverCloud Singers were founded in 1991 in tribute to Josephine Mofsie Tarrant, the mother of founding members Kevin and Michael Tarrant. The singers of SilverCloud have come from many tribes/nations and from many parts of the U.S. and Canada. The group was started with the intention to educate through song and dance. In the last 26 plus years, SilverCloud has not only become one of the premier singing groups on the East Coast but throughout the country as well.

“We were truly blessed to have singers of different areas come to sit and share some of their music with us which we still carry to this day. In May of 2020, we lost our founder, leader, and brother Kevin Tarrant (YellowBear/Little Lightning) to complications from Covid-19. He was the heart and soul of SilverCloud and always will be. We do not know what the future without Kevin will look like but we will continue to sing for him as long as we can in his honor. His influence on us and the Native community of NYC is immeasurable.”

Community Workshop Series

Dennis RedMoon Darkeem

Community Workshop Series

Art educator in residence, Dennis RedMoon Darkeem (Wind clan, Yamasee, Creek-Seminole), will lead the following community workshops, which are available to all ages (families are encouraged to come together). For the in-person workshops, all materials will be provided, for the virtual workshops, the list of materials will be supplied, and participants can prepare in advance of the starting time.

Personal Narratives: Connecting the Past, Present, and Future
October 23, 1–3 PM
In this workshop, participants will be looking for, building, and creating art inspired by everyday symbolism using collage materials and drawing supplies.

The Scavenger Hunt (Writing & Drawing)—Virtual Workshop
November 13, 1–2 PM
In this virtual workshop, participants will be encouraged to search and find items in their personal spaces that can be transformed into layered multimedia expressions. Canvas paper, watercolors, magazines, and found items around personal space will be listed to bring to this virtual workshop.

Family Colors (Watercolors, Collage & Poetry)
November 20,1–3 PM
Dive deep into your history! Combine elements of your family’s symbolism, explore traditions and utilize language to produce a unique family mandala. Participants will need to bring a set of watercolors, watercolor paper, collage materials, glue, scissors, and printed text or poetry to this workshop.

Now (Writing, Drawing, Storytelling)—Virtual Workshop
January 15, 1–2 PM
This is a drawing-based workshop. Participants will be asked to focus on the present moment to inspire new ideas of personal history and storytelling.

Dennis RedMoon Darkeem is a mixed-blood Native American and African American artist living in the south Bronx, who creates artwork based on familiar objects that he experiences in his daily travels. RedMoon sets out to express meaningful stories about events in his life and those found within the communities he lives and engages with. Darkeem’s work has evolved into critiquing social and political issues affecting US and indigenous Native American culture. Much of his art has focused on issues like institutionalized racism and classism, jarring stereotypes, and displacement of people of color. As a Multimedia Artist, he expresses these motifs through fine art, drawings, paintings, collages, photography, sculpture, and installations. Incorporating a craftwork aesthetic has connected tradition with the contemporary. This is prevalent in many of his pieces. Dennis seeks to create a discussion through color, texture, symbolism, and geometric designs. His creations evoke a historical memory and questions the status quo. “Art has become a conduit connecting my artistic ideas and concepts to the public realm.”

Film Screenings

Conscience Point: A Conversation with Director Treva Wurmfeld and activist Becky Hill-Genia
Tuesday, October 26, 7 PM
In conjunction with the Summit Film Society, VACNJ Curator Mary Birmingham and Director of Education & Community Engagement Sarah Walko will engage filmmaker Treva Wurmfield and activist Becky Hill-Genian in a conversation about the film Conscience Point.

Treva Wurmfeld’s feature directorial debut, Shepard & Dark, about playwright Sam Shepard, made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and won top awards at the Woodstock International Film Festival, the Cleveland International Film Festival, and the Florida Film Festival. That year, Wurmfeld was included in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Shepard & Dark was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival and Wurmfeld was nominated for the Camera d’Or prize. Shepard & Dark was released by Music Box Films in the Fall of 2013. Previously, Wurmfeld shot and produced for the Emmy Award-winning A&E series Intervention and wrote and directed the short film, Oyster in 2007. More recently, she produced and directed a short documentary, The Hama Hama Way. She received her MFA from Hunter College, in 2006. For more information on Conscience Point, click here.

Long time Shinnecock activist Becky Hill-Genia, the film’s heroine, cut her activist teeth during the American Indian Movement. During this time she was steeped in empowering philosophies and political ideas that she applies today to the present-day situation—standing up to Southampton town government, to preserve Shinnecock sacred land, and push forward legislation to protect ancestral gravesites.

These programs were made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey formed an advisory committee to help with the vision, scope, and content of this programming. The panel included Diane Fraher (Osage/Cherokee), filmmaker and founder and director of AMERINDA Inc.; David Bunn Martine (Shinnecock/Montauk/Chiricahua Apache), director and curator, Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, Shinnecock Reservation; and Dennis RedMoon Darkeem (Yamasee Creek-Seminole Native American), artist and art educator.