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Tulsa Artist Fellow teaches new forms of art

Nathan Young’s art engages features from all avenues of life to create installation art. From pipes to composing musical scores, Young invites his audience to experience art with multiple senses. As a Tulsa Artist Fellow, Young integrates his art with the Tulsa community; and as an adjunct professor at The University of Tulsa, Young encourages his students to discover their unique narrative within their art.

Young’s story is rooted in his experiences as an Oklahoma Indian. “A lot of times, people see American Indian culture as mono-cultural, but Oklahoma is a state with almost 40 recognized tribes,” he said. Young grew up in the Native American Church, which had its own art form, Peyote art. He adds the traditional Native American art forms into his nontraditional pieces. “I try to reflect how my experience in the Native American Church has been and how these different material items were a part of the Native American Church or Peyote Religion, which has changed and evolved,” he explained.

Young experienced the rise of American Indian gaming and the federal government involvement with the tribes, which often involved infrastructure. “A lot of my work looks like infrastructure. It looks like pipes, but I use them instead to transmit media and transmit things about the story of the Native American Church,” he said.

As an installation artist, Young performed art interventions, which may involve cutting holes in museum floors or crafting sculptures with water and pipes. His art incorporates all media, which he has brought to the TU campus. Last year, Young taught a popular workshop on sound art, which incorporates audibility to advance a traditionally visual art form. “I felt very fortunate to be an ambassador for sound art in Oklahoma and to bring that into TU,” he said.

Young’s story is about the complicated narrative of being an American Indian, and he urges his students to find their own voice. “It’s always great to see what my students come up with and to see what they have learned from beginning to end. I see how they’ve changed,” he said. His favorite part of his job is saying, “Wow, you’ve really put forth a great effort, and it’s obvious in the pieces.”

Alden Coleman, an electrical engineering sophomore, found his story in the field of engineering. “There are so many engineering projects out there that don’t have good style or artistic design,” Coleman said. “There are so many artistic projects that don’t have a good foundation or structure.” Coleman’s narrative is to combine art and engineering to produce elegance and function.

Young believes teaching students like Coleman is an integral part in the practice of art; and at TU, his students will “learn the skills and discipline of art. You can transfer that discipline into any field,” Young said. “If you are passionate about what you do, you’ll be successful.”