“The Red Dress Exhibit: If Only These Dresses Could Tell Their Story” is a limited-time exhibit on display Friday, Sept. 2, through Sunday, Sept. 4, in Artpark’s lower park (South Fourth Street entrance). Admission is free.
“The Red Dress Exhibit” is an immersive experience featuring 13 empty red dresses hanging from trees, telling the untold stories of 13 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and 2 Spirit (MMIWG2S) from 13 Indigenous Peoples in the Western New York and Niagara regions.
Organizers said, “Each red dress will be as unique and beautiful as the MMIWG2S it represents, and the ribbons, the beadwork, appliqués and paint on the dresses will be the keepers of their story.”
Artpark Indigenous Art Producer Michele-Elise Burnett created the exhibit. She said, “As each member of an affected family and community participates in the creation of these beautiful memorial dresses, healing is happening. Every thread and fiber of the ribbons woven into the dress hold the untold story of the spirit the dress represents, essentially giving the spirit a voice – a voice that was unjustly and horrifically taken away from them.”
This three-day exhibit features unique daily activities and includes a downloadable audio documentary tour, narrative signage, Elder’s healing Circle, MMIWG2S workshops, storytelling and teachings.
The exhibit will start Sept. 2 with an intimate acoustic concert called “The Circle at Artpark.” Featured will be Indigenous and allied musicians Linda McKenzie, a solo guitarist, singer, Native American Music Award nominee, and award-winning songwriter; Kendall (Kenny) Lee Lewis, an author-musician, producer and writer for The Steve Miller Band since 1981; Tonemah, a Kiowa, Comanche and Tuscarora and award-winning producer and artist; and young rising Annishenabe singer songwriter Joe Shawana.
The concert will focus on sharing the story behind each musician's MMIWG2S song and story.
McKenzie said, “Many people still don't know that Indigenous women are targets for senseless, random violence and killing, so the song ‘Missing’ was written to not only bring awareness to these hideous crimes, but to also become the voice of the voiceless … a cry from the grave of the missing and a cry from the loved ones left behind.”
“Missing,” a song created by McKenzie, Lewis, and Gen Huitt, a Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Elder, will be performed on opening night to honor and brings attention to Indigenous Peoples who have been affected by MMIWG2S. “Missing” has been nominated for a 2022 Native American Music Award.
Artpark said, “ ‘The Red Dress Exhibit is intended to increase awareness for the epidemic of the ongoing horrific systemic racial crimes targeting Indigenous women and girls who are victims of murder 10-times the national average; remember the lost lives of the victims; teach; give Indigenous women a voice; inspire a new cross-cultural generation based on inclusivity, compassion, love; and to collectively offer the MMIWG2S our love, gratitude (and) create a safe, nurturing and welcoming environment for Indigenous Peoples.”
Artpark said it continues its commitment to Indigenous Arts programming and awareness with “a full season of Indigenous programs built for and by our local Indigenous community. Our programming, conceived and curated by Michele-Elise Burnett (Métis Nation Citizen/Algonquin, Bear Clan and Artpark indigenous arts producer) serves residents from the Indigenous community in Lewiston, Youngstown and beyond, as well as non-Native persons who are interested in learning more about the culture and traditions.”
The 2022 Artpark Season is supported by: M&T Bank; Cullen Foundation; Labatt Blue Light; Bud Light; Southern Tier Brewing; Try-it Distributing; National Endowment for the Arts; Parks & Trails New York; Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo; New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; New York Stage Council on the Arts; FACE Foundation; Mid Atlantic Arts; Sonwil; and Northtown Automotive Companies.
Visit artpark.net for a current calendar of events.