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Erin Genia

Boston Artist-in-Residence

Erin Genia, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota, is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and organizer, whose practice merges cultural imperatives, pure expression, and material exploration with the conceptual. She seeks to create a powerful presence of Indigeneity in the arts, sciences, and public realm to invoke an evolution of thought and practice that is aligned with the cycles of the natural world and the potential of humanity. 

Genia earned an M.S, in Art, Culture and Technology from MIT, an M.P.A. in Tribal Governance from The Evergreen State College, and studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She was awarded the 2019 MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellowship. She received her first public art commission for “Resilience: Anpa O Wicahnpi” from the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture in 2017. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently at the Urbano Project, the Venice Biennale and the International Space Station. Erin is a 2020 Artist-in-Residence for the City of Boston. 

Watch Erin's presentation at the Boston AIR final event

Confronting Colonial Myths

As part of her residency, Erin led a virtual panel series called "Confronting Colonial Myths in Boston's Public Space". In this three-part series, Indigenous leaders and artists spoke about their work in the public realm. They addressed how symbols perpetuating colonial myths affect the lives of Indigenous people in the City, and how these symbols contribute to the public health emergency of racism.

Listen to the podcast version

View the recordings of past events: 

Watch the July 21 recording

Watch the July 28 recording

Watch the August 4 recording

Confronting Colonial Myths flyer

Erin also initiated the Boston Art Commission's special meeting on Indigenous Public Art and Cultural Spaces in Boston on May 25, 2021. The meeting was an opportunity to gather testimony from Native American and Indigenous community members. 

Watch: Confronting Colonial Myths Highlights
Credit: Arts and Culture

Working with Emergency Management

Erin has been working with the Office of Emergency Management to explore the notion of "cultural emergency". She is encouraging the City to think beyond immediate crisis response and focus on cultural organizing strategies that create long-term health and safety for diverse communities. At the 2020 ArtPlace virtual summit, she shared her experience partnering with the Office of Emergency Management.

Photo of ArtPlace virtual summit presentation

Watch Erin's presentation

Cultural Emergency Response

As part of her residency, Erin is working on creating a cultural emergency response vest out of beads. This process merges her Native traditions and her work with the Office of Emergency Management.

Photo of Erin Genia's cultural emergency vest

Watch the making of the vest

Indigenous People’s Medicine Fire

The Indigenous Peoples’ Medicine Fire was a collaboration between artist Robert Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag) and artist-in-residence Erin Genia, who worked together on the “Centering Justice: Indigenous Artists’ Perspectives on Public Space” symposium session, “The Legacy of Public Space on Occupied Lands”. During the symposium, Robert spoke about significance of a possible site in Franklin Park and the need for public space for the Native American community of Boston to hold cultural and ceremonial events. Erin and Robert co-organized the Medicine Fire in order to advocate for a permanent public place for Native American cultural use and stewardship in Boston and to show the necessity of such a space within City limits.

Due to our shared colonial history, the legacy of land theft and genocide of Native Americans here, and the ongoing invisibility of Indigenous people in Boston, there is a profound need for a place where people can come together to practice sacred cultural traditions, collectively heal from the intergenerational trauma created by this legacy, and assemble in fellowship to discuss ways to address community needs. Over the course of the day, an estimated 50-60 people offered their prayers to the sacred fire. The event was organized in compliance with regulations for gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was successful in providing much-needed spiritual reflection for Indigenous people in our community.

Erin Genia at Medicine Fire
Boston Artist-in-Residence Erin Genia at the Indigenous People's Medicine Fire on November 28, 2020, at Assonet Wampanoag Tribal Lands in Freetown, Massachusetts.

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