In the heart of Ballard, there's a welcoming new gallery — Sacred Circle Gallery, an offspring of the original location in the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. Alongside the beautiful works, visitors find information about each artist's cultural background, inspiration and tribal affiliation(s).
"At Daybreak we typically host a quarterly body of solo work by an artist," explains Vera Maldonado, Senior Director, Revenue Division. "In the Ballard Gallery, we are able to present a broader collection of several artist's work simultaneously." The Ballard outpost is also a hybrid venue that stocks an assortment of the gift shops' most popular items.
The newest location came to be when Executive Director Mike Tulee conversed with Mike Stewart of the Ballard Alliance about nonprofit United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, which has been serving urban Natives in Western Washington since 1970. They discussed potential collaboration opportunities, with the Alliance wanting to help United Indians find a gallery rental space in order "to bring our native cultural element into a more visible location in the Ballard community," according to Maldonado.
"We were fortunate the Ballard Alliance introduced us to a location in the historical district with high ceilings, great ambient light and an original brick wall that lends character to all the hanging wall art," Maldonado says. "It is the perfect backdrop to showcase our merchandise."
The space currently stocks items like wool blankets from Teton Trade Cloth, which is guided by a board of cultural directors from various tribal nations; their jewelry selection includes sterling silver and turquoise from local and southwest tribal members, Cherokee copper jewelry and a variety of beadwork from local artists, too.
"We have a large selection of prints in various formats and sizes," Maldonado adds, "matted, framed and limited editions by Indigenous artists from all across Turtle Island and sourced from a 50-year-old company that represents many Native artists that are paid a royalty on every sale, providing an ongoing income for generations to come."
Currently, Sacred Circle houses several collections from painters and carving artists, including Crystal Worl (Tlingit/Athabascan), Jennifer Angaiak Wood (Yup'ik) and Frank Peterson (Makah). The shop also has beautiful wooden rattles from Cliff Nichols (Shawnee) who carves horse rattles and other spirit animals.
Maldonado addresses the topic of cultural appropriation, a conversation that frequently surfaces.
"Some of our customers have asked us if it is cultural appropriation to wear Indigenous designs on apparel, our jewelry or to purchase some of the art we sell," she says. "These items are not part of our regalia or of a ceremonial nature, which we do not sell. Please feel good about wearing and enjoying these items and about supporting all these Native artists. It shows the artists you appreciate their culture and designs."
The gallery staff discovers talents through different modes.
"Our connections are made in a variety of ways," Maldonado explains, "often word of mouth, personal introductions and at Native gatherings like powwows. This is because many Native artists do not have websites or maintain a regular social media presence."
Maldonado has found that visitors are always struck by the variety and diversity among tribes.
"Seattle has a magnetic draw for many western tribal members," she comments. "The cultural diversity in their customs and traditions are evident in their art. The gallery seeks to share and broaden that understanding and, hopefully, appreciation by showcasing as many artists as we possibly can."
The overarching mission of United Indians of All Tribes Foundation is to support the Native urban community through programming and services. In addition to the Arts Program, they offer: the Labateyah Youth Home, a Family Services Division, Community Services, Preschool, Native Workforce and Veterans Program.
"Ultimately, all purchases made in our galleries, gift shops and website go directly to supporting our program," Maldonado says. "It is a perfect intersection between sharing our art, our stories, while building economic self-sufficiency."
In addition to the Ballard gallery, shoppers will want to check out the Sacred Circle Gallery and Gift Shop at Daybreak Star and an airport gift shop found in SeaTac's Concourse A.