- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Heart Of The Turtle in downtown Minot is more than a retail art gallery of Native American art. It’s also a resource center for Native American artists.

Operated by the Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association, Heart Of The Turtle is located on the main floor of Minot Artspace at 3 S. Main St., Suite 1.

“The purpose of the Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association is to empower the artists in their art that they become self-sufficient. That’s our main purpose. The art gallery helps with that,” association executive director Joseph Marion told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1ZL1CPp ).

Born and raised at Belcourt on the Turtle Mountain Reservation, Marion, who has been executive director of the arts association for several years, runs the Minot gallery. He travels to Belcourt once a week where the arts association has a facility in the Heritage Center.

Heart Of The Turtle opened in downtown Minot in October 2014.

Currently about 50 Native American artists, the majority of them who are members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, have work in the Minot art gallery. Marion would like artists from other tribes to also participate in the gallery.

The present art in the retail store is “a little bit of everything,” he said. It ranges from paintings, beadwork, red willow and sweetgrass baskets to birch bark bitings and more.

For those who do not know what birch bark bitings are, he explained that birch bark peels into many layers. “You take tissue-thin pieces, they fold it all up and they use only the eye teeth to create these items,” he said. “That was an art that was pretty much lost in the Turtle Mountains. Nobody was doing it for so many years.” He said one woman decided to start doing this type of work and now she’s doing a whole series. “She revived that art,” he said.

The story about the sweetgrass baskets is somewhat similar in that no one was working with sweetgrass to make items. Now a woman is working with sweetgrass in her spare time and making sweetgrass baskets.

“They’re beautiful. She adds beadwork to them now,” Marion said.

A resident of Mandaree on the Fort Berthold Reservation also has items for sale in the retail store.

A leather vest hanging in the gallery is Marion’s work. “I’ve always had dreams of being in the fashion world and designing. I’m a very creative person so I decided to start creating some leather pieces. That’s the first one I’ve done. My next piece is going to be a jacket,” he said.

He also does beadwork. “I’ve done beadwork since I was a child,” he said. He also teaches beadwork although he doesn’t consider himself an authority on it. “Yet I know enough. I know how to put your colors together when you bead,” he said.

Native American people look at the colors when they put their beadwork together, he said. “It has so much to do with the earth and things of the earth your trees, your flowers, the different shades. Even one leaf can have different shades depending on the time of the year. So you look at your plants, your flowers, the sky, water, earth all of that when you’re putting your beadwork together.”

Marion creates a variety of projects at the gallery that people can take part in on Saturdays.

“We always do something different in our classes,” he said.

The projects are open to anyone interested. Project hours are flexible. Children accompanied by adults can take part in the classes. He encourages family participation.

He said some people taking the classes might not be artists at this point. “But this may be their start,” he said.

Laptop computers are available to Native American artists for art-related research. Marion said he can also help them build a resume or put together a business plan.

“Now for the retail portion I want everybody to come in,” he added.

The store is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

___

Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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