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Great art from the Great Plains

Courtesy Abilene CVB

In Abilene, Pat Murphy has made a second career out of displaying and selling contemporary American Indian art at his American Indian Art Center.

“I retired and knew of quite a few artists who needed a market in this part of the country,” Murphy said, “so I built this place and opened it 16 years ago. We buy from well over 100 different artists and craftspeople, representing 45 different tribes.”

Visitors to the art center will find work by American Indian artists from Kansas, the Dakotas, Oklahoma and other parts of the Great Plains. There are usually 60 to 70 two-dimensional works on the walls in mediums such as oil paint, pencil and ink. About eight potters, plus jewelry makers, basket weavers and other craftspeople, display their work at the gallery.

Some artists still create traditional items such as medicine bags and tobacco pouches, which are on display at the gallery. Much more of the artwork, though, represents contemporary artistic taste with nods to long-standing American Indian principles.

“It’s a takeoff on the traditions,” Murphy said. “It’s what the buying public wants — if it’s too traditional, it’s hard to sell. But they still put their spirituality and their traditional themes into it.”