Cecily Engelhart is an Ihanktonwan/Oglala mother, artist, media nerd, and foodie living amongst her extended family in Rapid City. She has spent most of her professional career working in communications, most frequently utilizing her skills in graphic design, filmmaking, and animation. She also has multiple arts practices and owns an online store where she sells her jewelry and other items, in a mix of traditional and contemporary materials and designs. She says, “I realized how our knowledge and practices have so much relevance within contemporary life, and that instilled in me a dream of how I might elevate practical art forms from more common realities as museum artifacts and into their original role as a living, active component of our daily lives as Indigenous people.”
Engelhart has been learning different traditional art forms from Sicangu Lakota artist, Mike Marshall, for nearly three years, focusing primarily on parfleche, an animal hide stretched and dried on a frame, then crafted into bags or boxes and embellished with painted designs. This training includes cultural and historical contexts which inform how she would share this practice with others in an appropriate, authentic way. She sees parfleche work as a way to blend her love of design with her desire to use her hands to create something with deep, meaningful intention.
At the heart of Engelhart’s LIFT project is healing – the healing of a nearly extinct traditional artform. Over a year-long learning journey, she will work with a mentor artist to pass on the rare knowledge and practice of Lakota parfleche to a group of Native Women (not limited to cis women) via a healing-based Learning Circle. Their final works will be presented publicly as part of a collaborative collection celebrating the artform, as well as the resilience and strength of all the artists.
As Native women we are often not only carrying our own trauma, but also carrying the wellbeing of our families ahead of ourselves. It is hard to have that role switched and receive that care in return, so I want to create a space where we practice that together.
—Cecily Engelhart (Ihanktonwan/Oglala)