Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Person leaning against a building with wooden siding, arms crossed, wearing a black hat, blue pattered short-sleeved shirt, necklace with a white bird pendant, and a turquoise ring.

Americans for the Arts today announced visual artist G. Peter Jemison (Heron Clan, Seneca Nation) as the recipient of the 2023 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. This year’s $70,000 award honors an individual artist or culture bearer who does their creative work in and with rural communities with the purpose of building community, fostering participation in community life, advancing cultural and/or racial equity, and/or addressing specific issues that affect the well-being of rural communities.

Nolen V. Bivens, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, stated, “I congratulate Peter Jemison for this well-deserved recognition. At Americans for the Arts, we believe that artists are the catalysts for the transformation of society and America’s communities—and Peter is doing exactly that. As a culture bearer and thought-provoking contemporary visual artist, Peter's impacts on his own Seneca people and community in rural western New York are matched by leadership and action around issues of cultural preservation, cultural rights, and policies, benefitting Native nations across a wide geography. I look forward to hearing Peter share his knowledge, perspective, and experience over the course of this year.”  

Having grown up on the Cattaragus Reservation in rural western New York, Jemison now lives in Victor, New York. His mixed-media art ranges from political works that portray contemporary social commentary, to history collages, to works that reflect his relationship with the natural world. Jemison has also produced a number of short videos including the award-winning Iroquois Creation Story, an innovative collaboration with choreographer Garth Fagan that combines live-action and animation and brought together two unlikely dance partners—traditional Iroquois Social Dancers and Garth Fagan Dance. All of Jemison’s work is grounded in the Haudenosaunee belief in Orenda—that there is spirit and energy in all creation.

As a culture bearer, speaker, educator, curator, writer, and arts leader, Jemison’s visionary efforts over decades have helped lay the groundwork to bring Indigenous perspectives into curation and cultural equity concerns. He has been a leading voice in successfully advocating for Native rights around issues of repatriation of sacred objects, cultural patrimony, and the human remains of the Haudenosaunee. His contributions in these areas coincided significantly with his long tenure as the site manager of the historic 17th century Ganondagan State Historic Site in his New York homeland. Jemison’s realization of a center grounded in culture and vital programming related to health, education, economic achievement, agriculture, food sovereignty, arts, culture, and sports has had a transformative impact on the region’s Indigenous communities. Jemison is also part of Forge Project, a Native-led initiative centered on Indigenous art, decolonial education, and supporting leaders in culture, food security, and land justice. Located on the unceded homelands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok in Upstate New York, Forge Project works to upend political and social systems formed through generations of settler colonialism.

Jemison has curated the Iroquois Biennial at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, for 20 years. His own artwork has been widely shown and is included in such collections as The Museum of Modern Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; The National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. and NYC; The Heard Museum; The Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, Santa Fe; The Denver Art Museum; and The British Museum, London, among others.

Details about Jemison can be found on the Johnson Fellowship page. The Johnson Fellowship celebrates the legacy and work of the late Robert Leroy “Yankee” Johnson, who served as the first executive director of the King County Arts Commission. An accomplished musician and writer in his private life, Yankee and his late wife, Laurel Lee Johnson, both believed that artists, when given the opportunity, can create real paths for change. The fellowship is supported by the generosity of the Laurel and Yankee Johnson Trust.

Americans for the Arts is a national nonprofit organization that advances the arts and arts education advocacy in America. Based in Washington, D.C., it has a record of more than 60 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for everyone to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at