In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the nation's Federal Indian Policy centered around the concept of assimilation.
During this time, programs were set up to provide vocational training for Indians, said Steve Grafe, curator of American Indian Art at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Several Indian artists "? mostly Kiowa "? were trained at the University of Oklahoma under the direction Oscar B. Jacobson. The OU programs led to establishment of similar art training institutes in Santa Fe, N.M., Grafe said.
He said the programs in Norman and New Mexico were "taught by non-Indian teachers who thought they had an idea of what Indian art was supposed to look like. They thought it should look flat, no perspective, no shadow, and that is how it looked for several decades."
But while the techniques didn't always inspire works on canvas, Grafe said the style translated well to murals.
During the Great Depression, a tremendous number of murals were produced. As part of the New Deal, competitions were held for prospective muralists to submit designs reflecting local interests.
In Oklahoma, 31 post office murals were commissioned, six of which were created by Indian artists.
On display at the museum, 1700 N.E. 63rd, through May 3, 2009, "American Indian Mural Painting in Oklahoma and the Southwest" showcases several full-sized Indian murals and mural studies detailing Depression-era wall art created by Cheyenne muralist Archie Blackowl, Potawatomi artist Woody Crumbo and Creek/Pawnee painter Acee Blue Eagle, among others.
Museum admission is $10, $8.50 for seniors and students and $4.50 for children 6-12.
For more information, call 478-2250.