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Vail cancels Artist in Residency program with SeeWalker due to Gaza artwork

May 9, 2024, 5:31 pm

The Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places (AIPP) program has cancelled its summer Artist in Residency and related programs with Danielle SeeWalker over concerns about the “potential politicizing of the public art program.”

Here is the brief Town of Vail press release sent out Thursday after a previous press release announcing the program was pulled on Wednesday (following the town release is an email from SeeWalker).

The Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places (AIPP) is not moving forward with its summer Artist in Residency and related programs. The decision was made after concerns arose around the potential politicizing of the public art program. 

Danielle SeeWalker was the artist being considered for the summer residency. While the Town of Vail embraces her messaging and artwork surrounding Native Americans, in recent weeks her art and her public messaging has focused on the Israel/Gaza crisis. While the programs around a 2-week residency were being planned, a proposal for her mural was never submitted, nor approved and therefore no contract was issued.

AIPP’s mission is to create a diverse and meaningful public art experience in Vail, but to not use public funds to support any position on a polarizing geopolitical issue.   

Click here for more information

Here is the email from SeeWalker:

Han Mitakuyapi,

I hope this email finds you each in well spirits. 

It is rare that I ask for support from anyone. However I am writing to let you all know of an unfortunate event that has happened to me in my personal career, but really is a continued silencing of our people (Native American people) and people of color as a whole.

I was approached, almost 8 months ago, by the Town of Vail to do an artist residency program in their town this summer. I was really excited at this opportunity to represent our community in a good way and would have been the first Native American to have this residency opportunity. I signed a contract with them and had everything in place. I even turned down other job opportunities because of this contact.The residency would have been 3 weeks this coming June and would include multiple community art events including working with youth, painting a mural in Vail Village, an art exhibition and giving a talk at their Symposium.  

This morning, I received a phone call that they are cancelling the artist residency because they cannot have “someone like me” creating art in their town. As you might expect, I was pretty shocked and didn’t understand what “someone like me” meant. They stated that someone in their community saw a piece of artwork that I created recently (image of that piece is below) and they thought I am “too political” and therefore they are cancelling the residency altogether.  No one came to me to have a conversation to seek to understand.  No one asked for context or an explanation of the piece.  Instead, they did not hesitate to cancel my residency because they see it as me being “too political”.  This piece of artwork has nothing to do with the Town of Vail. It had never one been brought to the Town of Vail’s attention. It was simply seen by a community member in Vail on social media who then escalated it to their local leadership.

I had zero opportunity to defend myself. Zero opportunity to state the context behind the piece. Nothing. The phone call lasted 3 minutes and that was that.  

To be quite frank about it, even if they would have given me the opportunity to “defend” myself, I most likely would have declined moving forward with the residency anyway, especially knowing this is how judgemental they are.

The artwork of topic is called “G is for Genocide” and it is about me expressing the idea of parallels between what is happening to the innocent people in Gaza to that of the genocide of Native American populations here in our lands.

The beauty of art is that it’s all about expression. In my opinion, “good” art makes you uncomfortable; It makes you question perspectives.

If you feel compelled or have any type of reaction to this, I wanted to humbly request from the community that you take a moment to write to the Town of Vail and let them know that the continued silencing of our people is not OK.  People of color continue to be silenced, oppressed, and have opportunities taken from them and it’s not right. I’ll always stand up for that – for myself and for all others.

I have already contacted someone from 9News here in Denver and she is wanting to cover this. Feel free to forward this email to anyone else that you feel might want to highlight this in the media.

Contacts in Vail:

Town of Vail
75 South Frontage Road
Vail, CO 81657
Phone: (970) 479-2100
Email: info@vail.gov

Molly Eppard, Arts In Public Places Coordinator
Phone: (970) 479-2344
Email: MEppard@vail.gov

Russell Forrest, Town Manager
(970) 479-2105


Kathleen Halloran, Deputy Town Manager
(970) 479-2116
Philámayaye / Much Gratitude,

Danielle SeeWalker

(303) 928-0088
Instagram: @seewalker_ART

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