Munz Brings Sky World Indoors at Bay Mills

Aug 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 17-1: Telling Our Stories, Tribal College News
ARTIST CASEY MUNZ

ANISHINAABE ARTIST. After the tribal college re-connected Casey Munz with her culture, she reciprocated by painting these cultural representations for future students. Photo by Selina Vert

Visitors, students, and faculty at Bay Mills Community College (BMCC, Brimley, MI) are reminded of the Ojibwe culture and symbols – and of the talent of their students – every time they enter the college building.

Casey Munz, 29, spent several weeks painting a mural on the ceiling and then continuing the theme down the hallways of the new Mikanuk Hall (mikanuk means turtle).

After studying the building’s architecture, she decided to use the four hallways to depict directions. In traditional Anishinaabe culture, the four directions have four colors associated with them: black for the west, white for the north, yellow for the east, and red for the south.

Where the hallways come together, she painted a mural on the ceiling that represents the sky world, including day and night and lightning symbols, which represent the thunders talking. To Munz, the lightning symbolizes the spirits – the grandfathers who inhabit the four directions.

Onlookers asked a lot of questions while she worked. People were particularly concerned about the black lines down the west hallway. “They didn’t realize there would be florals (traditional woodland designs) with the black,” she says. Munz credits her mother, Becky Munz, for helping with the art.

She feels indebted to the college for re-connecting her to her people. She grew up in Wisconsin and visited the reservation only during the summers. When her parents returned to the reservation, she followed them and enrolled in several classes, such as Native American literature and film, which she refers to as “building-your-character type classes.”

Munz enrolled in the tribal college’s renowned summer language program. “The language program was instrumental in my life. When you learn the language, you learn a lot more about yourself and your community and how you fit into that.”

After graduating from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, she returned to the reservation where she works at the casino as the player development manager, organizing special events and parties for the players. The college hired her to do the mural.

“Bay Mills Community College is a great school. I am sure they have changed a lot of people’s lives. They are the center of the community.”

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