SPOKANE—The first statement Colville Tribal member Stefanie Marchand-Reuben made when asked at the First Friday show in downtown Spokane’s Philanthropy Center, Feb. 5, was that her art is an expression of the traditions of her family.
“I want to keep those traditions going through my art,” she said, pausing to think. “I grew up in a very traditional family.”
The event that had been scheduled for a much larger space at the center—a space that was closed due to heating, or electrical problems, Marchand-Reuben didn’t know for sure, so she was found stuffed into a small conference room. In the hallway, the work of Joeseph Arnoux, Blackfeet and Colville heritage, sat displayed.
Downstairs, two more artists, Jeff Ferguson, Spokane Tribe, and Jacob Johns, Hopi.
The downtown Spokane event sees bars, galleries, cafes and other spaces in the 40-block area served by the Downtown Spokane Partnership open late to feature artists and musicians. At the Philanthropy Center, the Empire Health Foundation and the Potlatch Fund joined to host their first of five shows featuring Inland Northwest Native Artists.
Parking was difficult. A steady stream of viewers moved through the spaces, viewing the different artists’ work. When asked, one said he’d heard about the event through Spokane’s independent weekly The Inlander: “This is the only show I wanted to see,” he said.
Immediately, the art featured in Marchand-Reuben’s small gallery space spoke toward her family’s traditions.
A self-portrait of the artist showed her gathering roots, with a bitterroot plant growing up her arm that extends out of the frame of the painting toward the Earth.
She was humble, when one patron—after buying a piece—asked the story behind it.
It’s what the person sees in the painting, she said after the patron left: “Many of my pieces have ceremonial meanings that I can’t talk about,” she added.
She has quit naming her art, she said, because doesn’t feel right. She even called titles, “a lie.” She’d rather allow the audience to put their own personal story to each piece.
“The name can be given by whomever views it at the moment,” she wrote online. “I like that idea.”
The second aspect of her displayed art was the portrait. Along with the self-portrait, in the small number of pieces featured, is one of Marchand-Reuben’s grandfather, Tinker Watt and his sister, Doll.
A portrait of a baby smiling enormously is of a friend’s child, said Marchand-Reuben.
Though she like oils best, she said, she’s begun leather work. She does bead work, regalia and displayed a couple acrylics.
Marchand-Reuben is currently enrolled at Spokane Falls Community College—eventually, she’ll move to Eastern Washington University to finish a degree in social work, she said—but she dreams of going to New Mexico’s Institute of American Indian Arts.
Arnoux was unable to make the show, and his mother, Colville tribal member, Diane Covington sat with his featured work adjacent to Marchand-Reuben’s.
April 1, Covington, Marchand-Reuben, Colleen Miller and Cheryl Grunlose—all Colville women artists—will feature work in another First Friday event again at the downtown Philanthropy Center.