Beginning in January, The Dancing Rabbit Gallery is holding a year-long celebration. We are calling this celebration the Year of The Dancing Rabbit, and we will have a lot of events and activities during the year for this celebration.
But why are we celebrating? Well, it is a big round-number birthday for our Gallery, and every birthday needs a party, right? Join us on our website and social media pages throughout the year as we celebrate, with memories, special promotions, giveaways, and a very special fortieth birthday of The Dancing Rabbit Gallery.
We are grateful that so many people have helped us not only survive, but thrive, in an extremely difficult gallery world. In return for their trust in The Dancing Rabbit Gallery, we strive to provide the highest quality of authentic Native American art, representing highly talented artists of the American Southwest.
Forty years ago this May, my parents, Pat and Jo McClain, decided to extend their love of Native American artwork by opening The Dancing Rabbit Gallery. Being raised in Oklahoma, they started with what they knew the best – Oklahoma Native American artists.
My mother, Jo, had a love for paintings by Oklahoma Native American artists, particularly those of Jerome Tiger and his contemporaries. Being of somewhat modest means, she acquired limited signed edition prints, only occasionally diving into the deep waters of originals. My father, Pat, grew up hunting and fishing in the fertile lands of southeast Oklahoma with his best friend, Bob Bell, who went on to become an Oklahoma rancher. Later in life, Bob, a Choctaw, decided to begin making bronzes representing his cultural background, and my father was fortunate enough to acquire several of these very rare and amazingly detailed pieces.
When my parents began planning to launch the Gallery in the spring of 1980, they turned again to what they knew for the Gallery name. The Dancing Rabbit Gallery came about because their high school in McAlester, Oklahoma had the mascot of the dancing rabbit, derived from the 1830 treaty of Dancing Rabbit creek, between the US Government and the Choctaw peoples. Only upon finding my grandfather’s 1918 high school annual, with the Dancing Rabbit prominently displayed on the cover, did I connect the dots and realize how that name was a natural fit for my parents’ gallery.
Time passed, and my parents extended their collections to include the pueblo Native Americans of New Mexico and tribes throughout the Southwest. As a young girl, I remember that every summer we spent part of our family vacations in and around Santa Fe, and I learned very early about the different cultures and beliefs represented in the different pueblo peoples. I think those trips ignited a lifelong passion for Native American culture and art from the American Southwest, as my curiosity and appreciation for well-constructed pieces grew.
Upon their passing, the collection of my parents was divided among the three children, and I decided to use my portion to continue the work of my parents. My husband Michael and I took The Dancing Rabbit Gallery online in 2012, and have extended our reach to cover more of the peoples of the American Southwest. Along the way, we have traced the footsteps of my parents, building long-term relationships with the artists and their families, as my parents did. We discovered, as they also did, that the full depth of beauty in a piece of art comes from knowing the back story of the artist and his or her culture; the arduous work to create the piece; and the stories of his or her culture that are contained in the piece.
I sit in my Gallery space each morning, soaking in the stories that each piece of art represents. I think of sharing a meal with friends, or a chance encounter at an art show or cultural event. I recall the insights of oral history or symbolic dances that I have learned. I think of the years of careful practice and study to create the pieces that I see. Even more significantly, many of these artists benefit from parents and grandparents who developed techniques and styles that have been carefully extended over the decades, so current artists can see what worked and what didn’t work. I see the transitions from rougher craft of a century ago to more polished, elevated styles of some of today’s artists. I ponder the future, and pray that young members of the pueblos and tribes continue the artistic legacy of their families and clans.
Finally, I pray that my mother and father would be proud of me for continuing and expanding their original Gallery. They focused on education and cultural understanding, and that is my mission as well. At The Dancing Rabbit Gallery, I spend an enormous amount of time trying to communicate the stories of the art, and also the backstories of the artists and their cultures. By knowing those stories, we can embrace the cultures represented by this vital part of our nation. These peoples were the First Americans, and they have contributed so much to our national identity. Their art is an expression of what lives in their soul, and the more we know, the better humans we will be.
So, mom and dad, Happy Fortieth Birthday to The Dancing Rabbit Gallery!