Cherokee artist Vicki Coppedge is from Rocky Ford, a small community south of Tahlequah. She has lived in the area most of her life and was born at the Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.
Now one of her pieces, a reed mat titled “Sun Garden” will be displayed in the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation, which is being constructed next door to the hospital where she was born.
The facility, located in Tahlequah, is the first tribally affiliated medical school site in the country. In addition to classrooms, clinical skills labs and a simulation center, the building will also house 125 pieces of Native American art.
Coppedge’s mat “Sun Garden” showcases one of the Cherokee Nation’s historical patterns, the Noon Day Sun or Evening Star.
“I have always liked to draw and create other art. My mom, Cherokee National Treasure Bessie Russell, is my basket inspiration,” she said.
Coppedge started her journey as an artist by making baskets like her mother.
“I used natural materials such as honeysuckle and natural dyes like blood root and walnut to make round reed baskets,” she said.
Coppedge then branched into making jewelry from Mankiller Pearl Shells and now she channels her creativity into making woven mats.
“I enjoy making the mats because I can do more designs with the flat reed. It’s exciting to see it all come together,” she said.
Gina Olaya, director of Cultural Art & Design for Cherokee Nation Businesses, formed a committee of people from OSU Center for Health Sciences to select pieces submitted from Cherokee Nation artists to be displayed in the new building.
“It is my goal the students, faculty and staff learn about our Cherokee history, culture and heritage through visual art,” Olaya said.
Dr. Natasha Bray, associate dean of Academic Affairs, and Ashlei Ashmore, director of operations at OSUCOM at the Cherokee Nation, were both on the art selection committee.
“The selection process was unique as we reviewed the art via Zoom and photos. The pieces were beautiful, however when we got to see them in person, they were breathtaking,” Ashmore said.
In fact, the selection of the art pieces for the OSUCOM at the Cherokee Nation is the project that Bray said she takes the most pride in.
"he ability to share the culture of the Cherokee Nation in our building, to highlight the shared experience and traditions with everyone who enters our building is an honor."
Coppedge said it’s also an honor for her.
“I am very proud to have the opportunity to have my artwork showcased,” she said. “If it wasn’t for opportunities like this to have my mats displayed in areas like the medical school, my art probably wouldn’t be recognized as much. I appreciate the opportunity for them to be displayed for all to see.”
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