Eleven years after its first installment, local artist Senora Lynch finished the second half of her project. The Gift seeks to honor and recognize the Native American population at UNC and in North Carolina by serving as a visual representation of the culture and its beliefs.
Lynch worked alongside members of the UNC American Indian Center, the Carolina Union and various Native American faculty, staff and students. The Gift converted the breezeway between the Frank Porter Graham Student Union buildings into an area where students can sit, study and appreciate the Native American art and history around them.
“This is one of my favorite places on this campus,” Chancellor Carol Folt said at the rededication. “Its centrality can remind us every day and help root us in our history.”
Senior Chelsea Barnes, president of the Carolina Indian Circle, said she thinks the second phase of the installation helps make it more obvious to those walking by that there is something to see.
“Before, it was probably pretty easy to walk past and not give a second look,” Barnes said.
Adding descriptions to the artwork and explaining the symbols made the Native American art easier to understand, Barnes said.
Now, six decorative plaques hang on the Union’s pillars to give the history and cultural meaning behind the corn, turtle, land, dogwood flower, eagle shield, path, water and medicine wheel.
The addition also included 26 circular seats made to look like drums. They serve as outdoor seating as well as platforms for additional symbols.
“Without seating, I think it was just a place to get from one part of the Union to another, now it’s kind of in your face,” Barnes said. “Even if you don’t take time to read the whole plaque, maybe you’ll read some of it.”
Barnes also said the artwork serves as a reminder that there is a Native American presence on campus, even though the population is small.
The ceremony featured speakers that represented students, faculty and the Native American population. Gabe Chess, Carolina Union president, spoke on behalf of CUAB and the organization’s eagerness to foster diversity and awareness.
“The Union has been really involved since the beginning of the project,” Chess said. “It’s also an opportunity for people who might not always think about this community to learn and reflect on their relationship to them.”
Amy Locklear Hertel, director of the American Indian Center, also spoke at the event, along with Qua Lynch, Senora’s daughter, who performed a traditional Native American corn harvest dance. Music was provided by Marty Richardson, a history Ph.D. candidate, who sang an honor song — a traditional Native American tune — in native tongue while playing a hand drum.
Chess said the art itself helps people learn. The symbols have special meanings to Lynch and her community — meanings that Chess said he is excited for students to discover.
“I think this space and piece of art is important because it creates a space where we can physically manifest how important the community is,” he said.