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Student Works Inspired by the Center of Southwest Studies' Collections

Art, history, and culture coalesce in Throughline, a student-led exhibit inspired by the collections at the Center of Southwest Studies. Throughline is based on the notion that objects are living: made from living beings, passed to living beings, and existing for many generations to come. In a quest for fresh, meaningful connections between students and Fort Lewis College, Center intern and Throughline curator Elise Boulanger (Studio Art, ’21) developed the idea for an exhibit that would showcase the Center’s world-class collections in harmony with the diverse voices of her peers.

Over the Spring 2021 semester, Boulanger invited students to study the Center’s vast collection of paintings, ceramics, jewelry, textiles, photographs, and other important items. After selecting pieces that sparked inspiration, students worked with the Center’s curatorial team to learn about where the objects came from, who made them, what they mean, and how they came to the College. The students then conceptualized their own works to complement the historic objects. Their stories accompany the new creations, creating a powerful experience for the viewer and a profound connection between the past and present.

“My peers are extraordinary in the ways they carved out time this semester to create art and share their intimate narratives with the community,” says Boulanger, an Osage descendant. “We are spreading an endless line of knowledge about who we are, why we are here, and how we will remain here.”

Boulanger won first place for Best Oral Presentation in this year’s Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities Symposium. Her Throughline exhibit is the first of many student-led shows at the Center and will be on display until April 2022. The project was made possible by a grant from the Ballantine Family Fund and a Mellon LIT Grant in Undergraduate Research.

Student participants
Stella Atkinson

Studio Art

V. Barney

(Diné, Laguna Pueblo), Communication Design and Sport Administration

Elise Boulanger

(Osage), Studio Art

Danni Crombie

(Gwich’in), Studio Art

Qootsvenma Denipah-Cook

(Ohkay Owingeh, Hopi, Diné), Biology

Laurel Grimes

(Chikasha, Vietnamese, Cherokee, Irish), Communication Design

Kobi Gyetvan

(Latinx), Studio Art and Marketing

Hannah Jacks

(Cherokee), Communication Design

AJ Lopez

Anthropology and Native American & Indigenous Studies

Emily McWilliams

(Diné), Biology and Anthropology, and her sister, Claire McWilliams, and grandmother Lillie Coleman

Destiny Morgan

(Diné, Nahiłii), Studio Art

Ben Rogers

Art Education

Shalee Rowley


Maddie Sanders

(Mvskoke & Mojave), Communication Design

Cheyenne Williams

(Muscogee [Creek]), Journalism & Multimedia Studies

Chloé Umdenstock

(Cherokee), Art Education

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