NEA Arts Magazine

The NEA Supports The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial


Rob Kapilow and Darrell Kipp

Composer Rob Kapilow (left) and writer Darrell Kipp. Photo: Hugo Perez

When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to explore the vast frontier that would later become the Western United States in 1804, they were searching for The Northwest Passage. Following the directives of President Thomas Jefferson, the pair attempted to find a waterway running East to West, but never did — since no such river exists. Instead, Lewis and Clark returned in 1806 with news of the West, "with room enough for our descendants, to the thousandth and thousandth generation," according to President Jefferson.

This year, the Arts Endowment has provided funding for a number of significant works to commemorate the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

Summer Sun, Winter Moon

The composer Rob Kapilow has joined with writer Darrell Kipp, a member of the Blackfeet tribe of Montana, to create a large-scale choral and orchestra work for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Commissioned by three symphony orchestras, Summer Sun, Winter Moon was premiered by the Kansas City Symphony with a 100-voice choir in September 2004, before an audience estimated at 1,000. The piece has since been performed by the St. Louis Symphony and the Louisiana Symphony as well.

Kapilow, an exciting new voice in classical music today, has been called the "pied piper of classical music" because of his wide-ranging efforts at making classical music accessible to new audiences. Kipp is celebrated within his tribe for his campaign to save the Blackfeet language from extinction. Together, they spent nearly a year listening and collaborating, to create a work that "crosses the divide" that separates mainstream America and Native America.

Beginning in December 2003, Kapilow and Kipp engaged in dozens of conversations, audience dialogues, and town hall meetings. They visited tribal communities in North Dakota,Montana, Idaho, and Oregon — and involved those communities in the process. What they learned and heard are reflected in music and song in Summer Sun,Winter Moon.

A documentary is being developed for public television on Kapilow and Kipp’s journey in creating the symphony and bringing it to the concert hall.

The Confluence Project

The Confluence Project is a series of interpretative artworks by designer Maya Lin — best known as the architect of the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. At seven sites along the Lewis and Clark Trail, Maya Lin will unite architectural and landscape design with environmental features to tell a story about the history, culture, and ecology of each site.

The Confluence Project is a collaboration among the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Lewis and Clark Commemorative Committee of Vancouver/Clark County, and the Friends of Lewis and Clark of Pacific County. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2007. NEA grants will help fund projects at three sites.

Vancouver National Historic Reserve in Vancouver, Washington

Vancouver National Historic Reserve in Vancouver, Washington. Photo: Jones + Jones Architects.


Model for the planned land bridge.

Model for the planned land bridge. Photo: Jones + Jones Architects.

In addition, The Confluence Project in the Schools uses the arts as a catalyst for programs that preserve and sustain our natural and cultural resources. This program includes professional development for teachers, permanent artworks created by students on their school campuses, and a symposium uniting participants from all the related communities.

"The Confluence Project is exactly the type of organization the NEA wants to empower," said Christine Olsen, principal of the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. "The artwork these students will create will touch and inspire people for generations to come."