Beyond Blue Mountains: Artworks by Native American Artists

"...beyond Blue Mountains where swift streams
vein the countryside like an old man's hand

Beyond the Lavadour hills
beneath the surface of practiced composure
the dark hills
–Excerpted from "Lay the Dark Hills Dreaming" by Tlingit artist and poet Jim Schoppert

Beyond Blue Mountains is a collection of artworks by Native American artists, curated by late Tlingit (Native Alaskan) artist Jim Schoppert, and organized by the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA). Between 1984 and 1985, Schoppert and ArtsWA project coordinator Deborah Rutherford travelled to major tribal communities across the Pacific Northwest, including Makah, Lummi, Colville, Yakima, Squaxin Island, Skokomish, Suquamish, and Umatilla. At each location artist gatherings were held to explore the work being done by Native American artists and craftspeople. Works of art were then selected for purchase through the recommendation of a local tribal representative in conversation with Schoppert.

After their year of travel throughout Washington state, the Beyond Blue Mountains team wanted to include national perspectives, and invited Native American artists working in contemporary styles throughout the United States to be represented in the collection. These artworks were selected by Schoppert, Native American contemporary artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and late arts advocate and patron Anne Gerber.

The resulting collection represents an impressive diversity of artistic mastery, cultural importance, and means of expression. In the late 1980s, the artworks were organized into smaller travelling exhibitions, and over the years 1988 to 1995 these exhibitions were viewed in schools and cultural institutions across Washington state. An extensive workbook of enrichment materials, published by ArtsWA in 1988 to accompany the exhibitions, can be found linked to each artwork page as a PDF. The workbook asks viewers to explore three "layers" to each artwork in the collection:

FORM – the physical elements of the piece
CULTURE – the social environment and context in which it was made
INDIVIDUAL – the artist's perspective expressed by the artwork

This web exhibition and the presentation of the Beyond Blue Mountains collection is a work in progress. We welcome suggestions on how to optimize the exhibition as a resource for educators. Please share your input at (Published November, 2017)

Artwork copyright . clockwise from top left: Art Thompson, Jolene Rickard, Elaine Timentwa Emerson, and P.Y. Minthorn. Composite photo courtesy of Washington State Arts Commission.