Woven Being: Art for Zhegagoynak/Chicagoland: Block Museum - Northwestern University
Skip to main content

Woven Being: Art for Zhegagoynak/Chicagoland

Lake at sunrise
January 25-July 13, 2025
Main & Alsdorf Galleries
Ininwwewi-gichigami, also known today as Lake Michigan, as seen from the lakefront near the Block Museum (Kathleen Bickford Berzock, 2021)

The Chicagoland region is a longstanding cultural and economic hub for Indigenous peoples, including the Council of Three Fires— the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa—as well as the Menominee, Miami, Ho-Chunk, Sac, Fox, Kickapoo, and Illinois nations. People from many Indigenous nations call the region home today, and the city of Chicago has the third-largest urban Indigenous population in the United States.

Indigenous voices, however, are often absent from art narratives of Chicago, past and present. This silence is damaging. The Block initiated the exhibition Woven Being: Art for Zhegagoynak/Chicagoland with the question: what would it mean if Indigenous people with ties to this land were the point of entry for thinking about art in Chicago and its region through time? Guided by Indigenous collaborations, priorities, and voices, the exhibition foregrounds the perspectives of Indigenous artists currently based in the city and those from nations forcibly displaced from the area in the nineteenth century. The Block is forming Woven Being through Indigenous curatorial methodologies that prioritize collaboration, reciprocity, and sustained dialogue with an expanding, intergenerational community of Indigenous knowledge sharers and non-Indigenous allies. 

Through the perspectives of four collaborating artists—Andrea Carlson (Grand Portage Ojibwe/European descent), Kelly Church (Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Tribe of Pottawatomi/Ottawa), Nora Moore Lloyd (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), and Jason Wesaw (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi) —Woven Being will explore confluences that have shaped and continue to shape Indigenous creative practices in the region. The place now known as Chicago is a critical nexus for Indigenous art and art histories that impact the larger Great Lakes Region and beyond. The artists are partnering with the Block team to create constellations of their own artwork and historical and contemporary artworks by Indigenous artists to shape the exhibition’s content. Selections highlight themes we have identified in dialogue with diverse project advisors: kinship between materials, relations across regional landways and waterways,  and Indigenous Futurisms through the weaving together of past, present, and future temporal lenses. 

Seen together the artist’s constellations form intimate and interwoven stories that resist the monolithic storytelling that too often characterizes presentations of Indigenous art in museums still shaped by colonial mindsets and practices. Oral interviews with the collaborating artists will serve as a foundation for the exhibition’s interpretative materials and its accompanying publication, centering the artists’ voices and respecting their agency in determining contexts for the display of their work. Instead of a comprehensive overview of regional art, Woven Being will offer diverse Indigenous perspectives of Chicagoland’s layered Indigenous art histories. These are central not only to understanding Chicago and its region, but also to understanding the widely interconnected Indigenous arts that have been, and continue to be, woven across the entirety of Turtle Island (North America). 

Woven Being will present approximately 80 works that speak to the  diversity of Indigenous art, materials, and time, including several new works created by the collaborating artists.


Pronounce Zhegagoynak 

(Via Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Government)

A woven basket with green, copper, and bronze-colored features

Kelly Church (Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Pottawatomi, Ottawa, and American, born 1967), Sustaining Traditions—Digital Teachings, 2018

Black ash, sweetgrass, copper and Rit dye; medicine pouch containing sage, tobacco, sweetgrass, and cedar; glass vial containing emerald ash borer and isopropyl alcohol; USB flash drive. 19.7 × 10.2 cm (7 3/4 × 4 in.) Copyright of the artist, Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago, Mrs. Leonard S. Florsheim Jr. Fund, 2020.389a-d.
A mural on a 4x6 grid of rectangular tiles depicting the sun, animals, and a basket

Andrea Carlson, The Indifference of Fire, 2023

Oil, acrylic, gouache, ink, color pencil, and graphite on paper approximately 46 x 182 inches (overall), 11.5 x 30 inches (each of 24 elements), Gochman Family Collection. ©Andrea Carlson, courtesy Bockley Gallery and JAMES FUENTES 
Detail shot of "The Indifference of Fire." Curling text reads "sometimes they heal each other"

Andrea Carlson, The Indifference of Fire, 2023 [detail]

Oil, acrylic, gouache, ink, color pencil, and graphite on paper approximately 46 x 182 inches (overall), 11.5 x 30 inches (each of 24 elements), Gochman Family Collection. ©Andrea Carlson, courtesy Bockley Gallery and JAMES FUENTES 
grainy black and white photo of white-haired woman sitting in a chair, smiling. side view.

Nora Moore Lloyd, Angie DeCorah (Ho Chunk), 2007/2008

Digital photo scanned from original negative, 8x10 inches. Copyright of the artist.
Two similar vertical compositions in black frames. light blue rectangle across the bottom and dark blue with shiny speckles across top.

Jason Wesaw (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, B. 1974), Negos Gkéndaswen, 2023

Hand sewn muslin, hand dyed with indigo and RIT dyes, float copper, vintage glass beads, and artificial sinew. Customed constructed and painted frame. Copyright of the artist.
Another angle of totem comprised of three stacked renderings of animal heads on dark wood base

Jim Denomie (Lac Courte Oreilles band of Ojibwe), Totem, Animal Spirits , 2021

Wood, oil paint, deer antlers, horse hair, found objects, 78 × 32 × 32 in. Forge Project Collection, traditional lands of the Moh-He-Con-Nuck.
two pairs of tennis shoes with figures and symbols detailed on in bead work

Teri Greeves (Kiowa), My Family's Tennis Shoes, 2003

Beaded Converse All Star high top sneakers, Woman's shoes (each): 15.2 × 8.9 × 26.7 cm and Baby's shoes (each): 7 × 5.1 × 12.1 cm., Cotton, rubber, glass beads, metal, thread, ink. Collection of School for Advanced Research, SAR.2003-16-1A-D. Photo by Addison Doty. Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research. 
loose, colorful pastel sketch of humanoid figure with animal head

Rick Bartow, (Wiyot, 1946-2016) Why He Sings, 2004

Pastel and aqueous medium on paper, 24.5 x 39.25 in. Denver Art Museum: William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, by exchange, 2005.61. ©Rick Bartow

Exhibited Artists

Josef Albers • Rick Bartow • Frank Big Bear • Roy Boney • Andrea Carlson • Avis Charley • Kelly Church • Nancy Fisher Cyrette • Woodrow Wilson Crumbo • Jim Denomie • Jeffrey Gibson • Teri Greeves • Denis Lajimodiere • Mark LaRoque • Nora Moore Lloyd • George Morrison • Barnett Newman • Daphne Odjig • Virgil Ortiz • Chris Pappan • Debra Yepa-Pappan • Cherish Parrish • John Pigeon • Jason Quigno • Monica Rickert-Bolter • Sharon Sklnick • Skye Tafoya • Lisa Telford • Jason Wesaw • Joe Yazzie


In the collaborative spirit of this project, we offer here a selected list of published resources that are guiding our process. We will add resources as our work continues:

Project Team

Project development is led by a collaborative team including Janet Dees (Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art); Jordan Poorman Cocker ([Gáuigú (Kiowa)), Terra Foundation Guest Co-Curator); Kathleen Bickford Berzock (Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs); Erin Northington (Susan and Stephen Wilson Associate Director, Campus and Community Education and Engagement); Dan Silverstein (Associate Director of Collections and Exhibition Management). The project Terra Foundation Fellows are Marisa Cruz Branco (Isleta Pueblo) and Teagan Harris (Cherokee Nation).  At Northwestern, we are grateful for the participation of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research and its affiliates. We are also grateful for the participation of Indigenous knowledge sharers, including artists, community leaders, and scholars, and non-Indigenous allies, who are contributing to the exhibition process and to Woven Being’s presentation at Northwestern University.

For more information about Native American and Indigenous research at Northwestern University visit Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR)

Note: We have used the preferred spelling provided by the artist for the names of Indigenous nations.


Woven Being is part of Art Design Chicago, a citywide collaboration initiated by the Terra Foundation for American Art that highlights the city’s artistic heritage and creative communities. Lead support for Woven Being is generously provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Major support is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional generous support is provided by the Sandra L. Riggs Publication Fund and the Alumnae of Northwestern University.


Art Design Chicago

Art Design Chicago is a special citywide collaboration and series of events and exhibitions that highlight  the city’s unique artistic heritage and creative communities. An initiative of the Terra Foundation for  American Art in partnership with artists and arts organizations across the city, Art Design Chicago seeks  to expand narratives of American art with an emphasis on the city’s diverse and vibrant creative cultures  and the stories they tell. Learn more at artdesignchicago.org.  

The Terra Foundation for American Art, established in 1978 and having offices in Chicago and Paris, supports organizations and individuals locally and globally with the aim of fostering intercultural dialogues and  encouraging transformative practices that expand narratives of American art, through the foundation’s grant  program, collection, and initiatives. Learn more at terraamericanart.org.

Project Stories