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August 24, 2011

Where We Live: The imagiNATIONS Activity Center’s inaugural publication

Spanish moss dangling from trees like Rapunzel’s hair. Yellow alligator eyes peering out of the murky waters of the bayou. A daytime cacophony of cicadas and a nighttime symphony of frogs and crickets. An aura of Old World charm and moldy decay that makes you wonder if vampires truly do roam the streets at night.

These are the sights and sounds of my southern Louisiana home. What plants, animals, and people live where you live? How would you imagine them? How would you draw them?

Native peoples have been depicting the world around them for centuries, to document their daily lives and express themselves artistically. Where We Live: A Puzzle Book of American Indian Art, the imagiNATIONS Activity Center’s inaugural publication, invites young readers to explore the different ways that contemporary American Indian artists use their imaginations to draw where they live. This fun, vibrantly colored book includes eight 16-piece jigsaw puzzles made from contemporary artworks in the National Museum of the American Indian’s collections.

NMAI puzzle book

The most enjoyable aspect of putting this book together was selecting the images to turn into puzzles. As you can imagine, there are thousands of beautiful objects in the museum’s collections to choose from, so we turned to our visitors for help. The Publications Office and the imagiNATIONS Activity Center project team worked with the museum’s Web Development Office to create our first online survey. The survey was promoted on the museum’s website and Facebook profile, and within days we had hundreds of responses. Surveys were also conducted with visitors here at the museum. The results are the eight stunning artworks found in this book, which reflect a range of landscapes throughout the Western Hemisphere. 

Rolled into the concept of home is also the idea of protecting natural resources and preserving homelands for future generations. Indigenous peoples have deep ties to the land, which are often explored in the works of contemporary Native artists. As the threat of global warming and other environmental calamities increases, it is often Native communities that feel the effects first. Scientists and academics are closely watching Native responses to the changes and learning from the vast environmental knowledge that these communities have accumulated over the millennia.

Where We Live: A Puzzle Book of American Indian Art will be available mid-November—just in time for the holidays—in the museum’s gift shops and on the website. The National Museum of the American Indian is grateful to its constituents for helping us create such a captivatingly visual book for our young readers. We invite you to take a journey with the book’s eight Native artists to their homes near and far, and to think about why it is important to care for the land we share with others. 

Just beware the vampires!

—Arwen Nuttall (Cherokee), writer/editor, NMAI

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