Tepee Art Project
Artist: Class of art students at Santa Barbara City College
Date of Action: March 2015
Region: North America
Location: Santa Barbara City College
Medium: Public Art
Confronting Bodies: Native American students
Description of Artwork: A class of art students at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) built a wooden teepee that was exhibited outside the college.
The Incident: Native American students complained to school administrators and claimed they were offended by it. SBCC President Lori Gaskin and her staff assembled a meeting with approximately fifteen art students and eight Native American representatives. The representatives, mostly Chumash, expressed anger, pointing out that the campus is a Native American burial ground.
When SBCC posted a picture of the students and the teepee on their Facebook page to promote the project, a furious debate ensued. Some indigenous students were offended by the way in which the tepee, an artifact associated with Native American culture, was used as material in an art project. Others were angered by the lack of reflection, in the piece, of the brutal reality of Native American history.
Results of Incident: Complaints from indigenous students led to its prompt removal.