Last night the Bush Foundation announced this year’s recipients of its Enduring Vision Awards. They are (from left to right above) flutist and hoop-dancer Kevin Locke, storyteller Mary Louise Defender Wilson, and local showman and puppeteer, Michael Sommers. They’ll each receive $100,000 spread out over the next three to five years.
I sat down with each of the award winners after the ceremony to talk about what exactly they plan to do with the money. What sets this award apart is that it’s given to artists with at least 25 years of working experience. It’s a late career boost for people who are, as Defender Wilson said, often viewed as ready to “be put back on the shelf.”
Kevin Locke said the money will allow him to document and archive Native American flute music that he’s learned over the years from elders. Locke also spends a great deal of his time teaching traditional hoop-dancing to children in schools. He’s also concerned with what it means to be a citizen in a global age, and how his own Lakota culture can contribute.
Mary Louise Defender Wilson will use the award to help her continue the work she’s already doing, learning bits and pieces of old stories from different tribal elders, and piecing them together. Her work is not just about preserving Dakota heritage, but also about honoring those elders who are often living in poverty and poor health.
Michael Sommers feels a pull to go deeper with his puppetry and theater; to create darker, more intimate work. But he’s also interested in creating moments of pure joy. He’s just back from China where he performed puppet theater out of a suitcase all over Beijing. At one point he was completely surrounded by children fascinated with what he was doing, pressing in on him and the puppets. Sommers started laughing at the situation. He looked around and saw that the children and the adults standing behind them were all laughing too. Sommers says he wants more of that.
Images courtesy of Ixtlan Artists Group, Preston Wright and Larry Lamb