Tipis were used for the most part by Sioux Native Americans as portable homes of sorts – a conical tent traditionally made with animal hide, wooden poles, and ropes. It could be moved with ease and its durability withstood all seasons – warmth in the winters and cool air in the summers.
An aspect of that life can now be experienced at Havemeyer Park in Williamsburg as part of the Tipi Project.
The project is the brainchild of Denise Cermanski, a Deputy Director at Art Start, a non-profit organization that uses the creative arts to tackle the issues facing marginalized youth in the city.
Cermanski worked along with organizations like Golden Drum, a Greenpoint-based healing center that focuses on Native American traditions, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, a Brooklyn-born Mohawk Elder, a museum ambassador of the National Museum of the American Indian, El Puente and hundreds of South Williamsburg residents among others to create the project, which opened at the Park on Thursday.
“For almost 2-years, I have had a profound fascination for the remarkable architecture, genius design and tradition of the Sioux-style tipi,” said Cermanski in an email exchange. “The minute I walked into Havemeyer Park I had a vision for building a space where community could gather to connect, to share and to learn about many different traditions and cultures.”
The project will allow people to experience certain aspects of Native American lifestyle through a variety of classes like a fan making, a Navajo weaving, and a full-moon ceremony performed by a Mohawk elder.
However for the Tipi Project, the Tipi serves more as a means to draw out community members to create collaborative artistic and culture projects particularly exploring the relations between people and land. Over the course of the summer there will be several lectures, storytelling projects and healing workshops based on Native American traditions.
“Before Tipi Project, I had not, personally, had the opportunity to hear teachings from elders and storytellers, and so I think this in incredibly vital to South Williamsburg community because it is not already in this neighborhood and there is so much to learn about how to live with intention and with deep care and consideration for all living things,” said Cermanski.
She has extensive past experience working on community art programs – the very first she collaborated on was a four-week program in 2008 exploring the relationship between identity and art at an all-girls high-school in Kolkata, India. She earned her masters in social work from Columbia University and has worked on projects with homeless youth, teenage mothers in foster care, and emerging artists.
The Tipi Project will continue on until September 1 at Havemeyer Park, but there is a possibility that it will move elsewhere upon completion.
Tipi Project, open weekends 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., to sign up for classes, to volunteer, and for more information on the project visit http://www.tipiproject.