CATOOSA – After hosting an art exhibition in October 2020, the following year a group of artists and enthusiasts came together and created the Route 66 Native Arts Alliance.
The alliance is a 501(c)(3), non-profit and all of its members are Native Americans with over 50% being Cherokee.
Cherokee Nation citizen and potter Crystal Hanna says after visiting fellow CN citizen Betsy Swimmer, they came up with the idea of hosting an art exhibit to help artists who were suffering financially. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had an art show in October,” said Hanna, Vice President of R66 NAA. “It was great, kind of a pick-me-up for the artist because a lot of people have been impacted financially due to the pandemic.”
Hanna said that in 2021 the alliance had its first official broadcast as an organization.
“We did it at the Bella Donna, which is a wedding chapel and event center (in Catoosa),” she said. “We had enough performers that we split between the Bella Donna and the community center (Catoosa). They were filled and we were filled. We had about fifty artists.
In February 2022, the alliance officially opened its art gallery in Catoosa called The Vault.
“We really want to draw attention to The Vault, which is what we named it quite appropriately because it’s a former bank building,” she said. “Everything is run by volunteers. We are set up to help our local Native American artists. We named ourselves Route 66…so at some point…we have the opportunity to grow based solely on our name.
Some of the artists who have worked at The Vault include Cherokee artists Daniel HorseChief, Traci Rabbit, Ron Mitchell, and Crystal Hanna.
Hanna said the alliance hopes The Vault will become a destination location for Catoosa.
“We started small, but hopefully we’ll grow,” she said. “I think people are pleasantly surprised when they come to see the quality of the art and that’s what we really want to do. We want to stay high-end, but we also want to support our artisans. »
As for upcoming events, Hanna said the Route 66 Native Arts Alliance Gala is back and will once again be held at the Bella Donna Event Center. The gala will run from 6-8 p.m. on July 8 and will include a fashion show and art auction.
“Our big fundraiser is the Route 66 gala,” she said. “I think we’re going to have six or seven pieces at the live auction and then we’ll have a silent auction.”
Hanna said the alliance always welcomes new artists and is open to all tribal affiliations. She added that non-artists are also welcome to become members.
“It’s a $50 a year subscription (for artists). We will withhold this fee for as long as we can,” she said. “You don’t have to be Native American to join our organization because…you can be a $100 member if you’re not an artist, but you just want to support what we do.”
For more information, visit rt66nativeartsalliance.org.