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Artesian Arts Festival Features Works of Talented Chickasaw Family

SULPHUR, Oklahoma -- Participating in the Artesian Arts Festival has also become a time for reunion and fellowship for a family of Chickasaw artists.

The Edgars, Wayne, Linda Sue and their eldest son, Wayne Jr., not only look forward to participating in the fifth annual event May 26, but are filled with gratification that the premier arts festival is conducted in their hometown.

"It's wonderful. It's an opportunity to showcase not only Chickasaw citizens but Native artists from around the country," said family patriarch Wayne Edgar.

"I am absolutely thrilled at the growth and the quality of art. The competition gets better every year. The bar just keeps getting higher and higher and it forces all of us who are participating to be better at what we are doing," he said.

The family of artists each have distinct focuses on their artwork.

Wayne creates cultural tools in the tradition his grandparents shared with him as a young boy.

Mrs. Edgar concentrates on intricately-beaded and culturally significant jewelry.

Their son, Wayne Jr., focuses his creativity on the canvas, creating art with paints, chalk, pencil and pen-and-ink.

Wayne Jr., began to study and pursue art while still in grade school at Sulphur. Motivation and mentorship from his parents and art teacher Paul Walsh helped guide him through high school and onto the University of Oklahoma, where he studied architectural engineering and earned a degree in mechanical engineering.

Through his 15-year career with nationwide engineering firms and an eventual law degree, Wayne Jr. continued to foster his artwork.

"I've always enjoyed art," he said.

His connection with the Chickasaw Nation has continued through his career, working with his own tribe through engineering projects throughout the Chickasaw Nation. He has also served other Native Americans through the Native American Legal Resource Center (NALRC), where he provided free legal service.

"My Native American heritage has always been important to me, and I try to give back whenever I can."

After earning an MBA at University of Texas at Arlington, Wayne Jr., began to pursue a law degree at Oklahoma City University. He was assisted by the Chickasaw Nation with a Lifetime Scholarship.

"They provided the opportunity for me and that opened up a great door," he said.

Currently, Wayne Jr., is an assistant general counsel for his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, where, among other things, he concentrates on International Trade Law and serves as a legal consultant for the university's scientists and engineers.

At the behest of his parents, L. Wayne attended his first Artesian Arts Festival in 2016, creating art that typically reflects his affinity with the outdoors.

For his first show he painted an abstract black, white and blue Eagle feather. He said he was honored that the piece now hangs in the Chickasaw Supreme Court Building in Ada.

"Whenever I paint something and spend so much time with it, it's like a child and I don't like to sell it. But, the fact it was going to hang in a courtroom was a great thing."

He has prepped for the 2018 show by painting a full-color version of an Eagle feather and a large painting inspired by a rainbow trout he caught on a fishing trip, he said.

His artistic talent was also recently used to create a new tiger mascot for Norman High School, which was gifted to the school.

Wayne Jr. said the Artesian Arts Festival holds a special place in his heart.

"I enjoy going back to a town I grew up in and seeing the improvements. The Artesian is there and downtown Sulphur (is thriving.) "It's great to see the opportunities that are there."

He also sees participating in the Artesian Arts Festival as a way to give back to his tribe.

Wayne Jr., and his wife Deana live in Norman, Oklahoma, and have three children, Madison, Gibbon and Hayden.

The couple's three children are among the 12 grandchildren of the Edgars.

When Mrs. Edgar spends time with her grandchildren, she works to ignite their creative spark. Electronics are put away and time is spent outside or creating art.

She shares the same uplifting message with her grandchildren and students of her jewelry-making classes.

"If you learn how to be creative and that you were born creative, it will give you confidence in yourself and whatever you do."

Her love for creating jewelry began as a young girl, when she would fix her mother's hopelessly tangled necklaces and give them back to her as a surprise.

She later learned, with the encouragement of a friend, how to repair jewelry. One day, about a decade ago, she decided she could make jewelry.

"So I just picked it up."

She nurtured her talent and discovered people to help her along the way, including an artist whom she admired, who taught her to bead with seed beads, and another who taught her a specialty stitch.

"It seems like God brings people to teach me. He shows me who to give my jewelry to and how to make it and who to teach. God is my direction."

Sue markets her creations under the Chickasaw name, Heshi Ishkunosi or "Little Feather."

Each piece is culturally significant and carefully planned.

She uses semi-precious stones and pays close attention to the texture and cultural significance.

"I can feel the right bead; the texture makes a difference."

She will also put a project on-hold until she finds the exact bead for it.

Polished silver-lined Czechoslovakian beads are used to create necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

After European contact, Czech beads were brought by Europeans and traded to Chickasaws in the 1600 and 1700s.

"Culturally, those are the beads our people used," said Wayne, who is a teacher and Chickasaw Historical Society board member.

Wayne's artwork reflects the teaching of his grandmother. He specializes in creating turkey wing bone calls and other cultural tools and ceremonial items.

His great-grandmother, who was born in 1872, taught him how to make turkey calls and bows and arrows.

"These are ancient skills that have been passed down. She passed on a lot of things that came from the Trail of Tears from her grandmother," he said, noting his great grandmother's influence led him to be a teacher.

Wayne taught school in Ada and led the Goddard Youth Camp near Sulphur for 38 years.

His completely handmade turkey calls are stained with Bois d'Arc heart wood.

His grandmother also helped him make his first bow and arrows out of Bois d'Arc, which he still makes and adds turkey feathers to for fletching.

Wayne also crafts a traditional ceremonial turkey fan out of turkey wings, known as an Ulhputuck.

He said he wished his ancestors could see the Artesian Arts Festival and the progress of the Chickasaw Nation.

"I was raised by Choctaw and Chickasaw people. When I was a child coming up, everybody was in abject poverty.

"To live to see a time when the tribe had the resources to be able to do something like the Artesian Arts Festival is an amazing thing to me. It is very difficult to wrap your mind around, because my grandparents, my parents – they would literally not have believed it – if you would have told them 60 years ago there would be an Artesian Hotel, an Arts District and a festival that brings in thousands of people."

"I wish they could see it. And I would hope our young artists and young citizens would somehow fully appreciate what has happened," he said.

Wayne credits the progress to the excellent leadership of Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby.

"It's a testimony to great leadership, great vision and the grace that God has shared with the Chickasaw Nation."

About the Artesian Arts Festival

SULPHUR, Okla. – One of America's fastest growing Native American arts markets, the Artesian Arts Festival, returns 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday, May 26, at the Artesian Plaza.

Hosted by the Chickasaw Nation, the Artesian Arts Festival spotlights elite Native artists from across the country and celebrates all forms of art.

Musical entertainment, tribal dance demonstrations, art talks and food vendors are also planned, as well as a special area for children's activities and a senior citizens' arts and crafts booth.

Open to the public at no charge, more than 100 elite Native artists are scheduled to attend the Artesian Arts Festival.

The Artesian Arts Festival takes place at the Artesian Plaza, located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa, 1001 W. First Street, Sulphur.

For more information, please contact Chickasaw Nation Arts & Humanities at (580) 272-5525 or visit


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