Lillian Pitt: 10,000 Years Through Art

Stage & Studio: Dmae Robert talks with the noted Warm Springs artist about friendships, mentoring, Covid, and the Indigenous traditions that shape her art

Dmae Roberts first met Lillian Pitt when noted writer Cheryl Strayed curated an artists  section of a TEDx talk in 2013 that included Roberts and Pitt. Though she was familiar with Pitt’s work, it was a pleasure for Roberts to finally meet her. In her TEDx talk, Pitt shared the stage with Toma Villa, a young artist she was mentoring.

In her new curated art show Pitt is again sharing space with Villa and other Native American artists, two others she’s also mentored. That is the giving spirit of Lillian Pitt. Her new show Lillian Pitt Solo Show: Ancestors Known and Unknown runs through May 1 at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River.

Lillian Pitt. Photo: Dennis Maxwell

Pitt features her glass art based on petroglyphs for this exhibit. Other artists and artwork she curated for this show include photography by Joe Cantrell (Cherokee Nation) and contemporary paintings by Sara Siestreem (Hanis-Coos Tribe),  large-scale mixed media wood carved masks by Toma Villa (Yakama Nation), found-object sculptures by Debora Lorang (friend of the Columbia Gorge Native Americans), and  aesthetically rich oils on canvas by Analee Fuentes (Mexican Heritage).

COVID-19 safety restrictions are in place at the Center. More info at:

Lillian Pitt with Toma Villa’s works at the Columbia Arts Center in Hood River. Photo: Joe Cantrell

In this podcast, Pitt talks about her early history growing up on the Warm Springs reservation, the effects of COVID-19 on her community, the value of mentorship which she learned from her own mentor, the revered Navaho nation artist RC Gorman, and has passed on to other artists some who are featured in this new show. She also details how she is honoring 10,000 years of Native American peoples on the Columbia Gorge and the importance of Celilo Falls as an historic meeting place for Indigenous communities.

Theme Music by Clark Salisbury

Subscribe to Stage & Studio and download on:
AppleGoogleSpotifyAndroid and Sticher
Hear past shows on the official Stage & Studio website

More about Lillian Pitt:  A Pacific Northwest Native American artist, Pitt was born and raised on the Warm Springs reservation in Oregon and  is a descendent of Wasco, Yakama, and Warm Springs people. Her ancestors lived in and near the Columbia River Gorge for more than 10,000 years. The Columbia River was called, simply, the Big River, or the Nch’i-Wana, by her ancestors. It was the backbone of one of the largest trade networks in all of Native America. Pitt’s works have been exhibited and reviewed regionally, nationally and internationally, and she has been the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions. Her awards include the 2007 Earle A. Chiles Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the 1990 Governor’s Award of the Oregon Arts Commission, which declared that she had made “significant contributions to the growth and development of the cultural life of Oregon.”

Lillian is primarily a sculptor and mixed media artist, and her lifetime of works includes artistic expressions in clay, bronze, wearable art, prints, and most recently, glass. Art by Lillian Pitt can be found in personal collections, art galleries, and museums. Her works are also displayed in numerous public spaces including parks, schools, and cultural institutions. 

Roberta Wong – Conceptual Artist & Tireless Advocate

Stage & Studio: In her newest podcast, Dmae Roberts talks with artist and curator Wong about challenging stereotypes and anti-Asian racism

Note: Dmae interviewed conceptual artist Roberta Wong the day of the killings of six Asian women in Atlanta, Ga. that night on March 15, 2021 in an apparent (though not yet charged) hate crime. In their conversation, the two Asian-American women talked about Wong’s earlier work that challenged the stereotypes and racism against Asian American/Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and about how, unfortunately, her work is still relevant considering the rise of anti-AAPI hate incidents around the country.

Stop AAPI Hate gathered a report summarizing the 3,800 reported incidents by AAPIs around the country. Out of all the reports, 68 percent of the respondents were women. The overall amount of reports went up by about 2,800 hate incidents nationwide from the period of March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021.  AAPIs who experience a hate incident can still report it at Stop AAPI Hate. Read the full report. Locally, you can report hate incidents at Report Hate PDX.

Roberta Wong. Photo by Julie Keefe.
Listen to Roberta’s interview here!
Subscribe and listen to Stage & Studio on: AppleGoogleSpotify, Android and Sticher and hear past shows on the official Stage & Studio website. Theme Music by Clark Salisbury.


FOR HER SECOND WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH PODCAST episode on Stage & Studio, Dmae talked with Roberta Wong, a veteran artist who grew up in Portland and has created thought-provoking conceptual art focused on themes of identity, ethnicity, ritual and transformation.

Her works during the 1980s, among them All Orientals Look Alike, All American, and Chinks, directly challenged people’s concepts of what it means to be Asian American.  Wong even contested an assumption in a grant proposal to the Metropolitan Arts Commission (the precursor to Regional Arts and Culture Council) that slated all Asian artists under the “folk arts” category.


Wanda Walden on Stage & Studio

Dmae Roberts moves her essential performing, literary and media arts podcast to ArtsWatch. Up first: A conversation with costumer deluxe Wanda Walden.

A conversation with a Portland Theater Icon for Women’s History Month.

Editor’s note: Oregon ArtsWatch welcomes Dmae Roberts, one of Oregon’s leading arts and cultural voices, to our lineup of journalists. Beginning today, Roberts, a writer, theater artist, and two-time Peabody Award-winning radio producer, will publish her lively and essential biweekly podcast Stage & Studio on ArtsWatch. In 23 years of producing Stage & Studio in Portland, she’s interviewed more than 1,000 of the artists and other workers who create Oregon’s performing, literary, and media arts scenes – a continuing who’s-who of the creative world.

Roberts maintains her own Stage & Studio website and moves her podcasts to ArtsWatch from KBOO-FM community radio; they’ll also continue to be available on her podcast website. Her projects with ArtsWatch will be, in her words, “especially focused on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) artists and arts.”

Wanda Walden: actor, writer, visual artist, costume designer. Photo: Don Lewis

Roberts begins her partnership with ArtsWatch with this conversation with Wanda Walden, the Portland- and Oakland, California-based actor, visual artist, writer, and in-demand costume designer, who had an astonishing fourteen shows lined up in Portland for 2020 before the pandemic shut productions down. Since the 1980s Walden, who grew up in Portland after moving here from Chicago at age 11 in the 1960s and began her career as a theater costume designer with the pioneering Black theater company PassinArt: A Theatre Company, has designed for most of the city’s leading theater companies. She talks here about her history of working with artists to develop Black theater in Portland. Most recently she costumed Martha Bakes at Vanport Mosaic from afar, locating a Revolutionary War era dress in her collection. Walden spoke from her studio in Oakland.