Jessa Rae Growing Thunder Named a 2024 Lunder Institute Ossorio Fellow


The Colby College Museum of Art’s Lunder Institute for American Art is pleased to announce that artist Jessa Rae Growing Thunder (Dakoda/Nakoda) is the recipient of the 2024 Alfonso Ossorio Creative Production Grant and will serve as a Lunder Institute fellow for the coming year.

Established in 2019 supported by the Ossorio Foundation, the Alfonso Ossorio Creative Production Grant provides financial support to artists affiliated with the Colby Museum and its Lunder Institute to further their intellectual pursuits, research, and the creation of new artworks that expand the boundaries of American art.

Growing Thunder is a third-generation beadwork and quillwork artist from the Fort Peck Assiniboine/Sioux tribes and a Great Plains tribal art historian raised by strong matriarchs. Following the path of her ancestors, she practices beadwork and quillwork as a way of life—one that is deeply connected to cultural knowledge, worldviews, and past, present, and future generations of Dakoda/Nakoda people.

In addition to her creative practice, she has consulted for numerous institutions, including the Autry Museum of the American West, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Baltimore Art Museum. She contributed research and didactics to the Colby Museum’s recent exhibition, Painted: Our Bodies, Hearts, and Village, for which she wrote interpretive labels on several pieces of historic beadwork featured in the galleries. In 2022, the Colby Museum acquired her piece, Assiniboine Pipe Bag, an acquisition that represented the museum’s first purchase of contemporary beadwork.

Drawing on her experience as a mother of two young daughters, Growing Thunder will utilize her fellowship to explore the impact of motherhood on her practice, and the connection between beadwork, quillwork, and expressions of mothering, love, and kinship. She will reflect on her own transition into motherhood through experimentation with color, texture, design, and multi-sensory elements within her work. Growing Thunder’s scholarly research practice will also contribute to these lines of inquiry by engaging historical Dakoda/Nakoda objects and ways of making to unpack how the functionality and designs of beadwork and quillwork contribute to the confidence and success of Dakoda/Nakoda children.

Her work has been shown in multiple museums, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Heard Museum, and the Joslyn Art Museum, and she has previously been an educator for the University of California-Davis, University of New Mexico, and Central New Mexico Community College. Growing Thunder was the cofounder of the Native American and Indigenous Advisory Committee to the University of California-Davis Chancellor, as well as the Save Wiyabi Project, which conducts community-based advocacy focusing on sexual/domestic violence against Indigenous women. She holds a doctorate in Native American studies from the University of California-Davis and was a 2022 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow, working on a project that promoted traditional materials used in quillwork through community-based oral histories, land-based knowledge, and Indigenous sciences.

Growing Thunder is a member of the Growing Thunder Collective, an artist collective comprised of Joyce, Juanita, Jessa Rae, Camryn, and numerous Growing Thunder grandchildren who uphold traditional Dakoda/Nakoda art forms, just as their grandmothers did before them. The Growing Thunder Collective recently received the 2023 SHIFT Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts Award.