OLYMPIA—The Evergreen State College is celebrating Black History Month with a virtual speaking event featuring artist Kellen Lewis from 1-2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23.
Lewis is both a citizen of the Nez Perce Tribe (Nimiipuu) and an African American man, who embraces his identities to empower his artwork. Currently, he co-hosts the podcast, Quantum Theory, alongside friend and fellow Black Nimiipuu, Mikailah Thompson. The two release weekly episodes on all major podcast providers that focus on discussing history and current events while amplifying Black and Native voices.
A multi-media artist, Lewis combines traditions of Nez Perce culture, including as a master bead artist in the style of his Tribe. He is talented Plateau-style cornhusk weaving, a tradition he carries on from his grandmother. His digitals illustrations combine Nez Perce imagery with pop art, including a line of stickers, and also in home décor.
He is a performance artist and a professional dancer, who toured Asia, the U.S. and Canada with Taiwanese pop sensation, a-Mei, on the Utopia World Tour.
“Kellen has said that his artistic expression is a means of maintaining his Nez Perce identity, at the same time as he celebrates his Black identity,” said Kara Briggs, Vice President of Tribal Relations, Arts and Cultures. “He has imagined that in 200 years someone researching Nez Perce artistic expression at the turn of the millennium would find that the Nez Perce arts were thriving as artists like him, drawing from mixed racial identities were carrying on their tribal traditional cultural while also innovating new art forms.”
Alongside that work, Lewis has deepened his connection with holistic practices, utilizing his knowledge and fitness certifications to bring wellness opportunities to his home community on the Nez Perce Tribe and surrounding areas.
As a child, Lewis and his family lived in Seattle, Spokane and in Lapwai, Idaho, on the Nez Perce reservation. He grew up with his Nez Perce family who maintained their cultural heritage through traditional arts. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, where excelled as track athlete, an artist and recruiter of Native students.
He operated his business, Trenal Original, which operates under the mission to increase visibility for underserved communities in contemporary culture. At the same time, Lewis has developed second business utilizing his knowledge and fitness certifications to bring wellness opportunities to his home community on the Nez Perce Tribe and surrounding areas. Lewis has said that he wants to be a “beacon of expression.”
“Kellen is a master artist in traditional beadwork and cornhusk weaving, and he has an unusual artistic mastery for someone who is young,” Briggs said. “As an artist, Kellen is helping people embrace multicultural identities while interpreting traditional arts into modern contexts.”
Please join The Evergreen State College’s Longhouse Education and Cultural Center as it welcomes Lewis as a speaker to celebrate Black History Month at a virtual event from 1 to 2 p.m., Wednesday, February 23 via Zoom.