The 2023 Family Reunion Festival saw many entries for its art contests, with pieces ranging from beading to woodwork and sketches to sculptures.
Laura Hewuse, a member of the Bourassa and Curly families, took first place in the professional category of the adult art competition for her “Two Brothers, One Nation” hand-beaded bandolier bags.
Hewuse started loom work in 2009 after attending a monthly workshop hosted by Roy and Julia Slavin.
“Bandolier bags take 8 months to a year,” to complete, Hewuse said. “Each one is designed around the person. I put a lot of thought into each one, using antique beads, including making the tassels.”
She made the bandolier bags entered in the competition for Lyle Simmons and Justin Neely.
Simmons’ bag included details such as a magnolia for his home state, a staff of Asclepius to represent his professions and eagle feathers to represent his ancestors.
Neely’s bag included elements in homage to his third great-uncle, Anthony Navarre, who was a tribal leader for both the Prairie Band and Citizen Potawatomi. It also contains references to many things significant to the Potawatomi culture, such as the fisher star and the four directional colors of yellow, red, black and white.
Hewuse said she has tried different things, but always comes back to the craft she loves most, which is loom work. She has entered her work at many past Festivals, and said she won Best of Show at the Potawatomi Gathering when it was hosted by the Prairie Band a few years ago.
To learn more about Hewuse and her work, find her on Facebook at facebook.com/laura.hewuse.
For the amateur adult art competition, winners for photos, paintings and drawing were Shilo Whitman in first place for a painting of a dog titled “Elma,” Connie Kennedy Herron in second for a painting titled “Two Fish,” and Jasmine Brown in third for a drawing of a tiger titled “Conte.”
This year was the first time Whitman — a member of the Anderson family from Madisonville, Kentucky — entered the art contest, but she said she has been drawing and painting since she was a child.
“This painting took me around three days to complete,” she said. “This was a picture of my dog that just passed away. My dog was named after my grandfather that I lost 11 years ago.”
Amateur adult art competition winners in the “other” category were Joe Wulfkuhle in first place for a lap steel guitar, Pam Wamego in second for a Wahoo game board with the Potawatomi seal, and Danny Wood in third for a copper wire Godzilla.
The next generation of artists also entered a variety of pieces in the children’s art competition, with winners selected in four different age groups.
In the 5 and younger competition, Jaxon Andrew took first place with “Jaxon’s Fireworks.”
For ages 6 to 9, Mikaylie Shouse placed first with a pottery cup, Axel Winn came in second with “Flower Power,” and Tess Ivy was third with her “Rainbow” painting.
For ages 10-12, Cruz Winn came in first with a sketch of a buffalo, Dean Ivy placed second with his painting “Dragon,” and Gracie Evans was third with a painting of a wolf howling at a night sky.
For ages 13-15, Elena Bradley took first with her drawing “Shkwedes Moewe/Fire Wolf,” Drake VanVacter was second with a “Froggie” sculpture, and Kirsten VanVacter was third with a “Forest Night” painting.
Next year, the children’s art competition will move to the South Reunion Hall.