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The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is pleased to announce that award-winning artist and educator Monica Raphael (Anishinaabe/Sičáŋğu Lakota) has been named new Thomas G. and Susan C. Hoback curato of Great Lakes Native cultures and community engagement.

A culture bearer, grandmother and fifth-generation quillwork artist known for flora and fauna designs, Raphael has created pieces that are in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College and the Eiteljorg. 

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Raphael also has an impressive background creating and implementing cultural, educational and human services programs within tribal communities, and she has served as an instructor and guest lecturer.

“Working with curators and the museum’s education and public programs staff, Monica Raphael has a major role in cultivating working relationships with artists and tribes and developing events for the public, with a special emphasis on Native cultures of the Great Lakes region, which is her background,” Eiteljorg President and CEO Kathryn Haigh said. “Monica’s past association with the Eiteljorg already has made an impact on the community we serve, so we are thrilled that she has joined the Eiteljorg team as the Hoback curator.”

Until joining the Eiteljorg Museum last month, Raphael had been a self-employed artist in southwest Oklahoma since 2018, creating quillwork and beadwork jewelry and ribbonwork clothing.

“I am thrilled to join the Eiteljorg team of dedicated individuals who have already made a positive and impressive impact sharing the Eiteljorg mission,” Raphael said, “and I am excited to bring my creativity and knowledge of Great Lakes Native American cultures, languages, philosophies, teachings and ways of knowing to the Eiteljorg, museum visitors and the greater Indianapolis community.”

Raphael’s pieces have received awards at Native art markets such as the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, Heard Indian Market in Phoenix and Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market and Festival, and have been featured in magazines highlighting Native American arts.

An enrolled member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Monica Raphael grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, then lived near Traverse City in Suttons Bay, Michigan.

Understanding cultural dynamics was key when she worked for the Grand Traverse Band from 2002-2012, developing a behavioral health program for Native youth to increase local high school graduation rates. She obtained federal grant support for that program, which included managing a youth dance company, Mino Bimaadziwin, for which Raphael served as artistic director, choreographer and costume designer. Four students she trained won champion titles in hoop dance. The program was so successful that it was replicated in a Hopi community in the Southwest.

After 25 years helping to make data-driven change in tribal communities, Raphael in 2018 made a career change to follow a lifelong dream of becoming a full-time artist. In 2021, she was awarded the prestigious First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital Fellowship and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation LIFT Award. Her work as an artist also brought her to the Eiteljorg multiple times for Indian Market and Festival and an artist residency, and later led to her joining the museum staff as Hoback curator of Great Lakes Native cultures and community engagement.

Great Lakes Native arts and cultures are important to the Eiteljorg. Through a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the museum in 2019 acquired more than 400 such artworks and cultural items that greatly increased the depth of its collections in that category. Beautiful examples of beadwork, basketry, carvings, mixed media and other items were included in the acquisition. Some of the Great Lakes works are on view now in Expressions of Life: Native Art in North America, in the museum’s new Native American Galleries that were reconstructed and reinstalled as part of the Project 2021 capital/endowment campaign.

The public can meet her at upcoming events including a gallery tour Nov. 3 and a quill stitch workshop Nov. 17.

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