Many Faces: A Cherokee Mask Exhibit | Cherokee, NC

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Many Faces: A Cherokee Mask Exhibit

(SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

On March 28th, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian celebrated the grand opening of its newest exhibit, Many Faces: A Cherokee Mask Exhibit. This exhibit showcases the masks, the people who made them, and the traditions and customs behind their creation and use.

Many Faces is designed to provide visitors with accurate, detailed, and insightful information into Cherokee history, traditions, and ceremonies. The exhibit is a compilation of masks of different mediums, paintings, and photographs. While some of the masks are from the Museum’s Collection, most of the masks were submitted by members of the community. Over 150 masks are showcased. Many of the masks are made from various types of wood, but there are a few gourd, hornet’s nest, and ceramic masks. The oldest masks on display, which are around 100 years old, were made by Will West Long. The exhibit has been funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

Visitors to the exhibit will leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of the Cherokee people, the work that goes into creating a mask, and why this, and all Cherokee artforms are so important and must be preserved.

Dakota Brown and Tyra Maney curated the Many Faces exhibit with the help of assistant curator Jennifer Wilson. Dakota has a background in history and Tyra has a background in graphic design.

 (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

Keeping Cherokee Traditions Alive

Inspired to be one of the many hands keeping Cherokee traditions and way of life alive, John Henry Gloyne feels honored to be a part of the show. John Henry is a professional artist working in various mediums. His artist highlight features a mask that he carved out of buckeye wood, four paintings of masks, and two masks from his collection of other Cherokee mask makers, Allen Long and Adam Welch.

John Henry started carving in 10th grade in Bud Smith's Cherokee woodcarving class. Bud learned carving from another well-known Cherokee artist, Amanda Crowe.

To John Henry, “Many Faces” means that the world is changing. 

“Cherokee culture dominated these mountains for thousands of years. To watch people of many (different) faces come and try to end your way of life must have been, and still is, a terrifying reality to face,” John Henry says. “We Cherokees are still here though, making our way in a country that must have been so confusing to our ancestors. I think of the words ‘we are indigenous to the land and foreigner to the culture.’ Western culture that is. Change will come, accept what’s good about those changes, but reject anything that could poison your fires. ‘Many Faces’ means protect your fires.” 

Laura Walkingstick, a ceramic artist and doll maker who has multiple masks in the exhibit, says that each of her masks represent different things depending on the intention she puts into them. Her masks in the exhibit are made out of clay, metal, copper, and brass. 

“‘Many Faces’ means the multifaceted faces of an individual. Speaking of the Cherokee Booger masks, it represents the individual maker and what statement they want to express,” Laura says. “In many cultures masks are used to express, promote, and protect the individual who wears the mask.”

Laura has two masks in the exhibit that she’s collected from her cousins Garfield Long Sr. and Denny Crowe, who’ve already passed. She has one large ceramic mask that represents the meth epidemic problem, two doll-sized ceramic masks, and two doll sized metal masks.

 (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

Plan Your Visit

Many Faces: A Cherokee Mask Exhibit will be on display until May 1, 2021. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is open year round from 9 am to 5 pm, and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Starting June 1st, the museum will be open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm, and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Cost of tickets is $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 6-13. Children ages 5 and under are free. Audio tours are available in English, Spanish, and German languages, and discounts are available for groups, and for AARP members, AAA members, and the military.

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