Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy birthday, Josephine Myers-Wapp

Josephine Myers-Wapp was born 100 years ago today, February 10, 1912, in Apache, Oklahoma. A resident of Lawton, Oklahoma, she is the oldest living member of the Comanche Nation. Her birthday was celebrated today at the Comanche Nation Elder Center in Lawton.

But Ms. Myers-Wapp is famous for much more than merely living a full century, in itself no small feat. From her biography on the Oklahoma Arts Council, we learn that she is an artist, a teacher, and an expert in Native American traditional art. Another source briefly recounts her life experience:
The turning point in her life came when the Bureau of Indian Affairs established an art education program at the Santa Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, a curriculum was designed to educate American Indians as art teachers and place them in American Indian boarding schools. Mrs. Wapp entered the program, choosing fiber and traditional arts as her major areas of study.  After completing her education, she taught arts and crafts at Chilocco (Oklahoma) Indian School. In 1963, she joined the faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, where she taught American Indian traditional arts and culture. Mrs. Wapp was involved in all aspects of arts including native dance. She helped coordinate a dance exhibition at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City featuring IAIA students. She retired from teaching in 1973 to focus on creating traditional and contemporary Finger Weaving. Her creative work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and the Middle East. She has received many awards for her artwork and teaching and has influenced thousands of people with her extraordinary talent.
In an interview conducted by a local news channel just before her birthday, Ms. Myers-Wapp said: "Art, we really can't live without art. I think art is into everything. What we wear, what we do. Everyday, it's almost in everyday life." The video of her interview is below, along with a couple of examples of her weaving. She is a true Oklahoma treasure.

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