Big Read at CMN Library Includes Comics Contest

Feb 15th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-3: Food Sovereignty, Spring 2011, Tribal College News

When the library at the College of Menominee Nation (CMN, Keshena, WI) participated in the National Endowment of the Arts The Big Read program, staff selected Sherman Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

The program started with a Welcome Back to School party for students. During the party—called “Party with the Part-Time Indians!”—they also offered presentations on creating comic strips and multicultural images. The book discussion took place during the final week of September and coincided with “Banned Books Week.” This was perfect, says CMN Library Director Maria Escalante, because Alexie’s book is frequently challenged.

Because the book itself is filled with caricatures, drawings, and comics, they also decided to tie a comic strip contest to the book discussion. Two instructors in the technical education program, Quince Gaynor and Craig Fox, even assigned their classes to create comics.

First prize went to William “Bruce” Brown (Menominee.) Brown, 49, is a first-year student in CMN’s Sustainable Residential Building program, where he is pursuing a career in green building with a particular interest in energy auditing. In his free time, Brown enjoys powwows, hunting, and fishing—and the winning entry was his first comic. He used to draw—mostly pictures of nature and Native people, with surreal touches—but he hadn’t done so in a long time. He credits this contest for renewing his interest and ambition for drawing, though he recognizes that his creativity follows many channels. He says, “I put a little art into almost everything I do.”

Quince Gaynor was the second place winner. Gaynor is an instructor in the Technology Education Department and the TrANS program at CMN (a collaboration between CNM and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation). He spent the first two decades of his life learning that you have to be “good” to make a drawing (or else it’s a waste of time). Now, he tries to overcome this misperception by telling his students (and himself ) that people should try things they’ve been told they aren’t good enough to do.

The third place winner was Victor Gipp, 54. Gipp is enrolled in CMN’s welding certificate program. Gipp grew up on a dairy farm and enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating high school, taking assignments in Kansas and Germany. He served 12 years and earned the rank of staff sergeant. This was also his first comic. “I haven’t done it before, so I was surprised at even placing in the contest, though I do think my comic was funny,” he says. “The artwork wasn’t great, but I guess it was good enough to get my idea across.”

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