Release Date: April 09, 2024

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Artist and university associate professor Amy Gantt will return for the 11th annual Artesian Arts Festival taking place 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Saturday, April 13, in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Her third appearance, Gantt hopes to take a ribbon once again in her division during the juried art show taking place during the festival.

“The Artesian Arts Festival is amazing,” Gantt said. “I am in awe with how many people come out. Both the number of artists and people. The festival is crowded. Artists sell quite a few things. It is a good time for everyone.”

Gantt placed third at the Artesian Arts Festival in the graphic arts category with “Sun Circles I” in 2022 and first with “Rings of Fire III” in 2023. Prints created by using the block printing process, “Sun Circles I” and “Rings of Fire III” are two-dimensional (2D) pieces showing both length and width, but not depth. 2D art is a popular format for graphic artists and block print enthusiasts.

“I go back and forth between creating 2D art and working with clay,” Gantt said. “Both ceramics and block prints are my favorite media. First American art can be both 2D and other types of art, like baskets and pottery. There are examples of both.”

Block printing is primarily Gantt’s fine arts outlet. One of the oldest printing methods, block printing is the process of printing patterns using blocks of engraved wood, or other materials, to apply images to objects. It is a 2D artform.

“The kind of prints I make are called block prints,” Gantt said. “Block printing is basically making a stamp. Artists use just about anything, a piece of wood, rubber or even linoleum, to carve a design into.”

“Once the design is carved, it is time to ink the block (stamp). When the artist rolls ink across the stamp, the parts that are raised collect the ink. The parts that are carved out of the stamp stay white. The artist then runs the stamp through a press, which in turn makes an image on the paper,” Gantt said.

“In some cases, I will fill several pages with stamped images, then cut parts out from each page and combine them together to form a collage. I also enhance the image with watercolor paint as needed,” Gantt said.

Block printing is one of the slowest forms of printing. If multiple colors are used, each must have its own individually carved “stamp.” Each stamp must be aligned perfectly to the other stamps and the substrate printed upon. Block printing allows artists to capture unique images, patterns and styles that are otherwise unobtainable.

Block prints often fall within the graphic arts or mixed media divisions when judged. Gantt also works with ceramics which allows her to create beautiful, utilitarian pieces.

Both her block prints and ceramic creations have been featured at the Chickasaw Visitor Centers in Sulphur, Tishomingo and Davis, Oklahoma.

“Artistically, I feel like my prints are stronger pieces to be judged,” Gantt said “My ceramics are more functional pieces. Cups, bowls and those types of things. I have always enjoyed creating ceramics. I began making ceramics in middle school art classes.”

As a Southeastern Indian tribal artist, Gantt has also participated in the Southeastern Art Show and Market (SEASAM) beginning in 2019. SEASAM is hosted by the Chickasaw Nation during the Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival in Gantt’s hometown of Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

“I love SEASAM,” Gantt said. “It takes place minutes from my house.”

Gantt has placed in the top three of her categories at SEASAM and at last year’s inaugural Hushtola’ Art Market conducted at WinStar World Casino and Resort.

“Hushtola’ means winter in Chickasaw. This market takes place in December at WinStar (World Casino and Resort),” Gantt said. “There were artists from all over. It took place in the conference center. I met some new people and saw some old friends.”

The Artesian Arts Festival is a community celebration of First American fine art and artists. The juried art show and market features awards and cash prizes in 21 categories, as well as “Best of Division” and “Best of Show” awards.

Competition categories at the Artesian Arts Festival include drawing, graphic arts, mixed media, painting, photography, jewelry, sculpture, textiles, 3D diverse, beadwork/quillwork, pottery, traditional dress and regalia, weaponry and cultural diversity.

“The Artesian Arts Festival really brings attention to what Oklahoma has to offer,” Gantt said. “Having so many artists adds to the festive atmosphere of Sulphur. I met people the first year that came up from Texas. They were interested in seeing what was going on. The Artesian Hotel, the park (Chickasaw National Recreation Area) and everything Sulphur has to offer makes it quite the draw.”

The Artesian Arts Festival takes place at the Artesian Plaza, adjacent to the Artesian Hotel, Casino and Spa, 1001 W. First Street. Artist booths line the Artesian Plaza. “It’s touching for me as an artist that people will spend their money on something I made,” Gantt said. “I have had someone buy a cup from me. Years later she told me she uses it every day and that it is her favorite cup. That made my whole show.”

The festival is open to the public at no cost. More than 10,600 individuals attended last year. Festival attendance grows annually. The family friendly event also draws an eclectic mix of cuisine from local food trucks. A wide variety of musical entertainment and tribal dance demonstrations are also planned.

First Americans from tribes across the U.S. will be represented at the Artesian Arts Festival. All skill levels of artists will be present, from professional to amateur.

“My Chickasaw heritage allows me to be a part of a big family,” Gantt said. “As an artist, the Chickasaw Nation provides many opportunities to interact with others. We get to know each other. Any time I set up at one of the Chickasaw events, it is like a big reunion.”

A Chickasaw Scholar

Although an artist nearly all her life, Gantt considers herself a teacher and student first and foremost. She has been teaching college students nearly 20 years. She began teaching at Murray State College in Tishomingo in 2006 and at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Southeastern) in Durant, Oklahoma, in 2010. Her primary focus is art history and studio art.

Gantt also teaches Chickasaw language and culture classes at Southeastern. In the past, she taught Chickasaw Clemente classes at Murray State College.

“Clemente classes originally taught students humanities and the classics,” Gantt said. “The idea spread to tribes. Tribes started using the Clemente format to teach their own history, from their own perspective. Clemente classes at Murray State College and East Central University (in Ada) teach our history and culture from our point of view.”

Education has played an important role in Gantt’s life. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Texas in Denton and a Master of Fine Arts from Texas Woman’s University, also in Denton. She has also earned a Master of Science in Native American Leadership from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

In addition, Gantt has had extensive education in the Chickasaw language. She has completed the master[1]apprentice language program offered through the Chickasaw Nation. She views language as one of the most important aspects of a culture.

“I participated in the Chickasaw master-apprentice language program for about five years. Language is part of a person’s culture. There are ideas and concepts expressed and housed within a language that don’t always translate well,” Gantt said. “Preserving language is important in preserving this knowledge.”

The Chickasaw Nation’s language program has evolved from traditional one-on-one, master-apprentice language learning and now offers a group immersion approach in the Chikasha Academy Adult Immersion Program.

“The immersion program is awesome,” Gantt said. “I think it is going to be the way that we develop new speakers. We can’t let our language die out. If we do, we are losing a piece of our culture and a mark of identity.”

Gantt spent more than 12 years employed by the tribe, two of those working at the Chickasaw Council House Museum in Tishomingo. Combined, these experiences make her uniquely qualified to teach Chickasaw history and language at the university level.

Well versed in Chickasaw history and culture, Gantt has been invited to be a presenter at the Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation Conference four different years.

The Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation Conference recognizes the strength and leadership of Chickasaw women from all walks of life. It salutes their valuable contributions, talents and skills to the community.

Gantt’s roots are steeped in Oklahoma history. She is the daughter of Mike and Connie Von Tungeln, receiving her Chickasaw heritage from her father. Her great-great-great grandfather is Governor Cyrus Harris. Governor Harris was the first elected Chickasaw Governor in Indian Territory. Her great-grandfather, Charles Penner, signed the original Dawes Rolls.

Located a mere 20 miles from Gantt’s hometown of Tishomingo, the Penner Ranch was established in 1854. The Penner family continue to operate the ranch, now named Penner Angus Ranch. The ranch is located near Mill Creek, Oklahoma.

The ranch was developed around the Penner family’s original Chickasaw allotments. The ranch once encompassed 11,000 acres. Currently, the ranch is nearly 5,000 acres and is the oldest continuous business in Oklahoma.

“My grandmother grew up on the Penner Ranch,” Gantt said. “We have some of our family’s allotment land in the area. The Penners of the Penner Ranch are first cousins to my grandma.”