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Louie Gong had seen the birth of Kess this past April and reached out to us to join Kess a few weeks later. He has the voice of an angel so the call was well received but I was even happier to look through his portfolio. We have a lot of interested artists but his work stood out for a multitude of reasons. We try and curate a group of artists that is both diverse in style and talent but of origin and message. Art imitates life and Louie's work is both light in palette and dense with culture. He is a full time artist, working out of a studio in Seattle Washington. His work can be seen in galleries nation wide, it is also possible to hear Louie speak nation wide for that matter. He creates and advocates for native people throughout the country. His work is beautiful, graphic and very "now" and also then.  The process of working with him on this collection has really brought his art and him as an artist, to life for me. Louie is an eighth generation native person born in Canada and raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community. As mentioned, he travels the nation speaking and working towards the elevation and celebration of Native Americans and Native Peoples. There is magic and rhythm in his work. It's simplicity is calming and works like a sound wave. It's so very captivating. He has mastered the use of graphics rhythms, palette and shape. 

His Fu Dog pillows are my current favorite. They are so simple and ancient yet, innovative. The design can be turned and two of the same pillows can work singularly or together. When placed together they create a complete face.  

Louie, like all artists exist elegantly within all realms of political, religious and economical status. An artist can create in a studio in Malibu, on the wall of low income housing or outside in the sand. There is no barrier of entry to creating, we are all in fact artists and patrons of art. Artists are storytellers. They work as mirrors to reflect their world or to preserve their culture. Louie's work extends beyond the canvas to home decor and into the hearts of those looking to support native peoples. Kess is proud to help support Louie's signature, limited edition, museum quality print with all proceeds being donated to: Chief Seattle Club www.chiefseattleclub.org

Chief Seattle Club is focused on providing basic needs to stabilize homeless/low-income urban Native Americans. Over the past decade, they have expanded and deepened their services, primarily through partnering with non-profit, tribal and government service providers.  Due to the economic crisis, there is a higher demand for services and they have doubled the number of members served since opening the new facility in 2007.  

 

In addition to generating income for members, the program has the added benefit of building community, improving self-esteem, reconnecting members to their cultural heritage and helping members maintain their sobriety. Approximately 75 percent of their members face substance abuse issues. The members often seek solace in the Arts and Cultural Program after leaving treatment, and find utilizing their imagination and staying active are a true lifeline during their initial days and weeks of sobriety. Many of the female members are frequent participants to the Arts and Cultural Program, largely seeking companionship and community. Approximately 60 percent of the participants are women, whereas the Club’s overall membership is 38 percent female.

Current Services: Chief Seattle Club aims to help their members stabilize their lives by providing food, basic needs, access to government benefits, legal assistance, counseling, substance abuse treatment and cultural, art and spiritual activities.  Chief Seattle Club has historically been focused on emergency services/basic needs for our members and are now expanding to provide a broader range of services.  *Earlier this year (2013)they added a mental health partner through King County Public Health/Harborview who provides a full range of on-site counseling services for individuals and groups. 

Their members also access the below human services:

  • Basic needs - Breakfast, lunch, showers, laundry, clothing, bus tickets, eye glasses, ID cards, and telephone. The Club serves 54,000 meals annually to our members.
  • Health - On-site nurses from the Seattle Indian Health Board and Seattle-King County Public Health.
  • Legal - On-site specialized civil and criminal legal assistance through the Northwest Indian Bar Association.
  • Chemical dependency – On-site drug and alcohol assessments with referrals to inpatient/outpatient programs through Seattle Indian Health Board, Evergreen Treatment Services, and our own Native American 12-Step program.
  • Housing assistance - Assists members into shelters, transitional and permanent housing; and financial assistance for move-in costs and eviction prevention.
  • Education - Job Readiness, Rental Readiness classes, computer training, and professional mentoring.
  • Benefits – On-site DSHS eligibility worker applies and approves state benefits (food stamps, Medicaid, GAU), monthly clinics with Seattle Community Law Center for SSI/SSDI applications, assist members with tribal enrollment/documentation to access Indian Health Services and Bureau of Indian Affairs benefits. 

Another important aspect in reconnecting Indian people to their tribal values is through the below cultural, artistic, and spiritual programs and events:

  • Art Program – Members express their culture and creativity through beadwork, wood carving, drum making and painting. Chief Seattle Club hosts a monthly gallery through Seattle’s First Thursday Artwalk. Members learn public speaking, customer service and sell their work to the public.
  • Gathering Circle - They conduct traditional ceremonies such as drumming, singing, storytelling, smudging, talking circles, memorials and prayer groups.
  • Tribal Journeys - In addition to on-site programs, they also take members to reservations to participate in cultural, spiritual and wellness programs. Once a year, they take 20 members to the Warm Springs Reservation for the Root Feast. Members sleep in a longhouse, peel roots, gather sage and eat traditional foods such as elk, deer, salmon, fish eggs, buffalo, and berries.  Every month, they also conduct retreats at the Swinomish Tribe’s Spirituality Center including sweats and hiking. 

How to Help: If you would like to help this wonderful cause, you can donate directly on their site or you can purchase a limited edition, Louie Gong, Hummingbird poster. Each $25 museum quality poster will be signed by Louie and mailed to your home within 4 weeks. All proceeds will be donated.

 

Louie Gong Brief Bio - You can read more on his website: http://eighthgeneration.com

Louie Gong is an educator, activist, and artist who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community. He is the past President of MAVIN, co-developer of the Mixed Heritage Center, and a former child and family therapist. Louie is also the founder of Eighth Generation, through which he merges traditional Coast Salish art and icons from popular culture to make strong statements about identity.

In 2012, Louie began an artistic partnership with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian called Design Yourself: I AM NMAI, and a collaboration with Manitobah Mukluks that led to the "LG Gatherer", a limited edition boot that has already sold out of it's first 3 runs.

Louie was recently honored with the cover of Native People's Magazine.  He was also named to Native Max Magazine's list  of the "Top 10 Inspirational Native's: Past and Present" and received the Seattle Indian Health Board's Adeline Garcia's Community Service Award, through which the nation's largest Urban Indian Health Clinic recognizes community leaders for volunteer service.

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