Trickster Gallery is a Native arts institution dedicated to meeting the needs of artists by providing a vehicle for artistic expression in all disciplines and at all levels by taking a role in the cultivation, exhibition, and dissemination of contemporary Indigenous American art.
Why a contemporary emphasis?
Native people have always been placed in a perpetual state of nostalgia. Trickster Gallery provides a different aesthetic, showcasing contemporary Native art that places an evolving culture and social issues in the forefront.
The idea behind Trickster Gallery is to address the state of Native America today while sharing thoughts of terminology for the sake of projecting positive images beyond romantic iconography.
Trickster Gallery programs raises public awareness and advances ideals of tolerance and diversity by combating stereotypes and deconstructing predetermined imagery that has long defined Native Americans with one generalized cultural aesthetic. They are created by rural and urban-based Native American communities for the larger community.
This provides a necessary inclusive platform for cultural exchange as we continue to celebrate Native America in Illinois.
In many cultures throughout the world, a singular figure exists to create and provoke thought on anything from the imaginary to real life experience.
The name “Trickster” carries profound meaning in many cultures. In Indian culture, a “Trickster” is a spiritual in nature “cultural educator”. The “Trickster” teaches life-principles. At times, he even works through levity and jokes. Today, however, the “Trickster” wishes us to learn just one truth: namely, the impact that art, both Native and non-Native, has had in shaping our mutual cultures.
The Trickster Gallery appropriates its name from this figure because the Native American community welcomes the idea of thought, cultural sharing and interaction for giving lessons of understanding about our modern Indian society.
Trickster Gallery is the place where the Native voice can be seen and heard, to paint a different picture about Natives American culture, and to celebrate a living culture through the lenses of contemporary Native Artists.
Trickster Gallery honors the past by sharing our present-day lives while projecting ideas for future generations.
TAG Uses Art to Tell a Cultural Story
The Trickster Art Gallery (TAG) teaches dramatically the culture of modern American Indians. TAG doesn’t write books or produce movies. Contemporary American Indian art becomes the medium bringing the American Indian culture to life, using present-day artistic venues.
But TAG provides much more. TAG is multi-cultural. TAG highlights artistic contributions of other-Americans as well those of American Indians. Through rotating exhibits of paintings, sculpture, pottery, workshops on dance and music and other visual media, TAG creates mutual cultural awareness through an artistic exchange.
In bringing together present-day art from the two cultures, living traditions emerge showing how much exists in common between American Indians and other Americans.
Why Do We Need to Hear the TAG Story from “First Voices”
Two points are critical. First, an other-American visitor coming to TAG needs a “cultural voice” presentation on American Indians directly from American Indians. A “Hollywood Version” covering 5,000 years of American Indians on our continent needs updating with “true” facts and data.
Secondly, TAG offers American Indian artists and their families a stage that they can step out onto and unabashedly share their life with other-Americans. In a very unique way, TAG affords the American Indian community an opportunity to tell its story in an authentic “cultural-voice” fashion.
How did Schaumburg become the Place to Tell the Story
In March of 2005 at an Illinois Arts Council meeting, Betsey Arnistead, Director of the Prairie Art Center in Schaumburg, heard local American Indian artists express their need for exhibit-space. She went to Schaumburg’s mayor, who in turn made an offer of TAG’s current building to Joe Podlasek.
Has the TAG Story Evolved Over the Years
Over the years, TAG’s evolved from an art gallery focused on strictly traditional art to a place providing extensive artistic venues. TAG has expanded to include workshops, “Artists Talk,” Native music and dance, American Indian Veterans’ displays, poetry slams, art exchanges with the Illinois Historical Museum and Smithsonian Institute. In addition, TAG hosts farmers’ markets highlighting Indian medicinal herbs, an American Indian young women’s show called “Spirited Daughters”, child-friendly programs tours, and travelling programs for elementary grades, high school and colleges.
What is TAG actually doing Today to Share Its Story
Today, TAG delivers unique services to other-American and American Indian visitors. It provides cultural sessions by Native artists who come to the Gallery to present and explain their paintings, sculptures, and “hands-on” regalia, clothing, tools and pipes. Also for other-American artists, TAG offers space for art exhibits, visual arts, poetry slams, and the “spoken word” workshops.
For the American Indians themselves, TAG affords not only professional exhibit space but a gift-shop where they can sell their art. Also, TAG has become a place for American Indian music, with the drums, the flute, the guitar played today as in the past. The American Indian musicians also freely use non-Native musical genres like Blues, Rock, Country, and Hip-Hop. Lastly, they hold shows blending together their music with the American-Indian dance.
For school children, TAG offers many items: hands-on exhibits, native games, age-appropriate art activities, a library, native music and dance, a tee-pee, the large map on the floor with Indian nations and tribes depicted as they were in the early 1800s, and white board walls for drawing on.
Finally TAG makes speaking presentations at schools, parents groups, business clubs, the Schaumburg Garden Club, and other places.
What happens if the TAG Story Isn’t Told
The TAG call-to-action invites other-Americans to a deeper appreciation of the American Indian culture. Through art experienced at TAG, a new awareness emerges in other-Americans that changes profoundly what they may have believed or even had been taught about American Indians.
If TAG doesn’t exist, the historic and contemporary artistic culture of American Indians diminishes seriously. The absence of TAG means an understanding of what American Indian art bequeaths to other-Americans is lost. As a result, other-Americans lose an intimate part of their own culture.
Thanks for listening to the TAG Story
TAG hopes that you as a visitor have experienced a friendly environment at TAG–one full of “surprises” for you. If you walk away saying, “Wow, I really enjoyed that; I learned a lot,” we’re happy. We thank you for your openness in coming to TAG. Hopefully, we’ve shared with you in a meaningful way the American Indian culture especially through today’s Native artists. And, finally, and most importantly, we hope that we’ve shown how our overall heritage in our country is a multi-cultural blend of other-American and American Indian artistic traditions.
CEO, Trickster Art Gallery, Schaumburg IL
Founding member and current VP of National Urban Indian Family Coalition
Member of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, current board member
Enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribe (LCO) and of Polish decent
Mr. Podlasek, Citizen of the LCO Ojibwe Tribe in Northern WI and of Polish decent. He is the father of three great children who are also citizens of LCO, who in addition have Tribal affiliation with the Pit River and Wintun tribes of CA, from their Mother. Mr. Podlasek (Joe P) a fellow of the Leadership of Greater Chicago in 2004 and FBI Citizen leadership Academy 2010, moved in July 2013 full time to establish the Trickster Art Gallery, a new not for profit organization. After 14 years of leadership services to the Native and cultural communities in Chicago and national level, his focus is on creating awareness and cultural education through education programs in the, arts, veterans and fatherhood services. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience in community/organizational development, organizing and social justice issues to the Trickster Art Gallery in Schaumburg, IL. His past experience also includes 10 years of technology background in working with the Chicago History Museum and private technology firms as technical system engineer.