Members-Only | Virtual Art Talk: Oklahoma and its Influence on Leon Polk Smith | Heard Museum

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Members-Only | Virtual Art Talk: Oklahoma and its Influence on Leon Polk Smith

Join us live, online for a panel discussion with exhibition co-curator Joe Baker (Delaware); Dr. heather ahtone (Chickasaw/Choctaw), Senior Curator at First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City; and Dr. Dwanna McKay (Muscogee (Creek) Nation), Assistant Professor in the Race, Ethnicity and Migration Studies program at Colorado College, as they discuss Oklahoma historically and how that framed Leon Polk Smith’s artwork.

To register for the event, please check your email for a link, or email us directly with the program title at


Joe Baker is a Native arts leader and activist. As Executive Director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, he supports a multidisciplinary community of arts practitioners who create authentic stories challenging visitors’ expectations while illuminating the complexity of the human spirit. He is an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and co-founder and Executive Director of Lenape Center in New York. Baker graduated from the University of Tulsa with a BFA in design and an MFA in painting and drawing, and completed postgraduate study at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in its Management Development program. He served as the Lloyd Kiva New Curator of Fine Arts at the Heard Museum and the Director for Community Engagement at Arizona State University‘s (ASU) Institute for Design and the Arts. He is the recipient of the Virginia Piper Charitable Trust 2005 Fellows Award, the 2007 Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art’s Contemporary Catalyst Award, the 2008 Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian Design Award, and ASU’s Presidential Medal for Social Embeddedness, 2009.


Dr. heather ahtone is Senior Curator at First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City. She examines the intersection between Indigenous cultural knowledge and contemporary art. She earned two undergraduate degrees: one in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and one in printmaking from the University of Oklahoma (OU). She continued on at OU for graduate studies, earning a master’s degree in art history and a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary studies (art history, anthropology, and Native American studies). Working in the Native arts community since 1993, she has curated numerous exhibits, publishes regularly, and continues to seek opportunities to broaden discourse on global contemporary Indigenous arts. Her adventures have included working at the OU Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, OU School of Geology and Geophysics, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, and the IAIA Museum. She is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and is descended from the Choctaw Nation.


Dr. Dwanna L. McKay is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and an Assistant Professor in the Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies program at Colorado College. McKay holds a PhD in sociology, a graduate certificate in Indigenous studies, an MS in sociology, an MBA in management science, and a BA in political science. Raised culturally within the boundaries of her tribal nation in Oklahoma, McKay centers her teaching, research, service, and activism on an overall commitment to social justice. McKay’s research focuses on social inequality and Indigenous identity, and has been published in numerous scholarly journals, including Sociological Compass, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, American Indian Quarterly, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and the European Sociological Review. She has also authored multiple published book chapters, poems, essays, and opinion editorials. McKay currently serves on the National Advisory committee for the Native American Student Advocacy Institute and previously held an appointment as Secretary of Education for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

geometric painting of partial red circle bordered by a strong black line angled like clock hands at approximately 2.35

"Lobster Red" 1984, acrylic on canvas with wood, 89 x 49½ inches. Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Leon Polk Smith.

Event Details

Wednesday, April 7
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm


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