Native American artist Kristin Gentry spoke to a full house Friday afternoon at the Cultural Engagement Center at Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa.
Gentry explained to the audience how she uses art create to preserve her traditional Native American tribal culture.
“My grandfather worked with wood and my grandmother was very creative, they dragged me to art shows when I was a kid,” she said. “I was around art all my life and so it was natural for me.”
As a high school student at Berryhill High School near Tulsa, Gentry wanted to be a band director and earned a scholarship at Oklahoma State University but then she found art as her passion. She attended Tulsa Community College and then later attended OSU.
She learned her passion for Native American culture while a student at OSU.
“I didn’t know a lot about Native American culture growing up but when I attended OSU, I became interested in Native American culture and then began to use my art to re-learn my culture,” she said.
“I didn’t dance or speak Native American languages but I found another way to learn and express my culture and that was through art,” she said. “There are different ways to preserve the culture.”
Gentry uses many different designs in her art including a mixture of black and white as well as plus/minus images. She also uses sunflowers focusing on red and pink as the main colors. The flowers that Gentry uses in her artwork is representative of the pollination process of seeds. The seeds are an important part of Gentry’s heritage and she also has plans to research how certain plants may have made their way west during the long walks that her ancestors endured.
Gentry is a full time artist which allows her to spend time with her daughter. She also makes jewelry specializing in jewelry made from wood.
Gentry’s advice to students was to find their balance of life.
“Life is crazy sometimes with school, work, and family,” she said. “I was fortunate that my parents encouraged me to follow my passion, which was art, and I am grateful for their support. It is so important to have support group when choosing a career.”
Gentry is also part of the CEC Mentoring Program where she encourages students to use available resources and get involved with activities on campus.
“At NOC, you are so fortunate to have the CEC where students can come and study, get tutoring, and also be involved in student activities,” Gentry said. “Get involved with students that have similar interests that will help you become more comfortable on campus.”
She has exhibited her artwork in numerous juried, invited, open, and group shows across the Midwestern United States. She works as a professional visual artist in the areas of relief and monotype printmaking, painting, jewelry and photography. She also works as a writer, designer, and curator.
She worked as a full time arts educator in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and now works full time as an artist. Gentry is an enrolled member and registered artist of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and will finish her M.S. degree in Native Leadership from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in the spring of 2020.
She received the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s 40 under 40 award in 2012. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in fine arts from Oklahoma State University in 2009, and graduated as a Senior of Significance denoting the top of her class.
She attained her Associate of Art in education from Tulsa Community College in 2005 as an Honor’s Scholar Graduate. She graduated from Berryhill high school in 2003.
Gentry’s art is available at www.krisingentry.com . The exhibit will be on display at NOC through September.
Among the audience were NOC students and an art class from Tonkawa High School.
The exhibit, provided by a U.S. Department of Education grant through the Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI) program, is supportive of the initiative to provide activities that highlight Native American culture.
The exhibit is housed in the Cultural Engagement Center through the month, ending on September 27. The CEC opened in 2017 and includes contemporary learning spaces where students, faculty, and/or tribal leaders can meet; individual study or collaborative projects can be conducted; culture-based learning activities and community/cultural events can be provided; professional development can be held; and small group or individual tutoring can occur. Northern is continually striving to support the Native American student population and was pleased to honor Gentry at this reception.