Erin Genia (b. 1978), Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and community organizer specializing in Indigenous arts and culture. Genia’s work in these areas is focused on amplifying the powerful presence of Indigenous peoples on the occupied lands of America in the arts, sciences and public realm to invoke an evolution of thought and practice that is aligned with the cycles of the natural world and the potential of humanity.
Genia’s artistic practice merges Dakota cultural imperatives, pure expression, and exploration of materiality with the conceptual. Erin is fluent in multiple modes of expression: sculpture, fiber, sound, performance, digital media, painting, printmaking, jewelry and ceramics. She has degrees from the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology and The Evergreen State College.
As a community organizer, Erin combines the creative process with civic practice and is served as a 2020-2021 artist in residence with the City of Boston’s Office of Emergency Management, where her project, “Cultural Emergency Response,” creatively repurposes disaster planning methods to -address complex issues like climate change, institutional racism, ecological destruction and economic inequality from a decolonial lens. As part of this work, her speaker series, Confronting Colonial Myths in Boston’s Public Space, featured local Indigenous leaders and artists speaking about how monuments in the city contribute to the public health emergency of racism.
Erin maintains a traditional Dakota arts practice in canupa iŋyan/pipestone carving, and was awarded the 2021 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant from Mass Cultural Council. She is an advocate for Native American cultural issues and has worked in the field of Indigenous arts and culture as a writer, scholar, administrator and teacher. Her recent article, “Dislodging the Cultural Infrastructure of Indigenous Peoples’ Dispossession,” appeared in the winter 2021 issue of the Boston Art Review.
Erin was named a 2019 Artist in Residence at the Urbano Project, where her first solo show, “Okonwaŋzidan” was reviewed in the Boston Globe. While at Urbano, she taught the program “Stories of the Land” where youth artists developed ways to respect the land in an urban environment through their own histories, cultures and experiences via an exploration of sculpture, sound and performance. Her work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Ars Electronica, and in the interactive digital installation, “Sound on Mystic” in Medford, MA.
Genia’s work also explores the intersections of Dakota philosophy and technology, and her piece, Canupa Inyan: Falling Star Woman, travelled to the International Space Station in 2020 as part of Sojourner 2020, a project of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative.
Erin’s work in public art includes commissions for the Tufts University Art Galleries, Minnesota Historical Society, the City of Saint Paul, and the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. Erin is a co-founder of Centering Justice: Indigenous Artists’ Perspectives on Public Art, a project of the New England Foundation for the Arts Public Art Team that seeks to disrupt harmful historic narratives and present critical perspectives on the social justice dimensions of public space.