Critical Encounters: Nancy Elizabeth Prophet



Join scholars, artists, and educators for an exploration of Nancy Elizabeth Prophet’s artistic practice and life. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Nancy Elizabeth Prophet: I Will Not Bend an Inch, this convening will examine the historical context in which she worked, her role as an educator, and the reverberations of her work today.

Speakers include:

  • Sherenté Mishitashin Harris (Brown/RISD Dual Degree Ethnic Studies, Painting), Activist and Artist
  • Ebonie Pollock, Doctoral Student in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University
  • Mack Scott, Ph.D., Historian
  • Lorén Spears, Executive Director, Tomaquag Museum
  • Eric Telfort (RISD BFA Illustration), Associate Professor Illustration Department, RISD
  • Erin Unkefer Ph.D., Psychologist, Carnegie Mellon University

1:00 pm Welcome
Kajette Solomon, Social Equity and Inclusion Specialist and Sarah Ganz Blythe, Ph.D.,, Deputy Director of Exhibitions, Education, & Programs

1:10-2:00 pm Panel 1 - Complexity of Identity
Lorén Spears and Mack Scott Ph.D. Moderated by Sháńdíín Brown

2:05-2:40 pm Presentation - Harmonic Accord: Themes of Poverty and Resistance in Nancy Elizabeth Prophet’s Diary
Ebonie Pollock

3:15-4:00 pm Panel 2 - Black/Indigenous Artists at Predominantly White Institutions
Sherenté Mishitashin Harris, Eric Telfort, and Erin Unkefer, Ph.D. Moderated by Kajette Solomon

4:00-4:30 pm Informal gallery exploration and conversation
Aanya Arora (RISD BArch ‘24) Preparation & Installation Assistant, RISD Museum
Cat Ashley (RISD MFA Digital + Media ‘24) Digital Initiatives Graduate Assistant, RISD Museum
Jiyeon Johnston (Rhode Island College BFA Digital Media ‘24) Digital Initiatives Assistant, RISD Museum
Gabrielle Walker, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet Curatorial Assistant, RISD Museum

Panel 1
Sháńdíín Brown (she/her), Assistant Curator of Native American Art, RISD Museum
Sháńdíín Brown is a curator, creative and citizen of the Navajo Nation from Arizona. Joining the RISD Museum in 2021, she was the first Henry Luce Curatorial Fellow for Native American Art and has been recently promoted to the Assistant Curator of Native American Art. She leads the museum’s America’s Research Initiative, a program supporting the study of Native North American museology, art and works of cultural heritage. While at the RISD Museum, she co-curated Being and Believing in the Natural World: Perspectives from the Ancient Mediterranean, Asia, and Indigenous North America (2022–23) and Take Care (2022–23). Brown’s newest exhibition, Diné Textiles: Nizhónígo Hadadít’eh (2023–24), explores the intersections of Diné apparel design, weaving and womanhood. She has co-taught in RISD’s Apparel Design department, where she is a recurring critic. Brown’s research interests include multitemporal Native North American fashion and jewelry, global contemporary Indigenous art and Indigenous feminism and futurism. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she earned her BA in Anthropology and Native American Studies and minored in Environmental Studies. Previously she held positions at the Heard Museum, Hood Museum of Art, Penn Museum, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) and School for Advanced Research (SAR) Indian Arts Research Center (IARC).

Mack Scott, Ph.D. (he/him), Visiting Assistant Professor of Slavery and Justice, Simmons Center, Brown University
Dr. Mack Scott is a historian, educator, and member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. His work focuses on the intersections of race and identity and employs agency as a lens through which to view and understand the voices, stories, and perspectives of traditionally marginalized peoples. He has published works illuminating the experiences of African American, Native American, and Latinx peoples. He is currently working on a project that traces the Narragansett from the pre-colonial to the modern era.

Lorén M. Spears (she/her), Executive Director, Tomaquag Museum
Lorén M. Spears, enrolled Narragansett Tribal Nation citizen and Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Master’s in Education and received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa in 2017, from the University of Rhode Island and Doctor of Education, Honoris Causa from Roger Williams University in 2021. She is an author, artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has contributed to a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond; From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution; and Repair: Sustainable Design Futures. Spears co-edited a new edition of A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams; and recently co-authored As We Have Always Done: Decolonizing the Tomaquag Museum’s Collections Management Policy published in the Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archive Professionals. Under her leadership Tomaquag Museum received the Institute of Museums and Library Service’s National Medal in 2016 and she has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

Ebonie Pollock (she/her) Doctoral Student, Department of History of Art + Architecture, Harvard University
Ebonie Pollock, is a Ph.D. student and Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in the History of Art & Architecture department at Harvard University, where she studies Black women’s sculptural practices of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a particular emphasis on Black feminist theory, materiality, theories of the archive, and collective memory. She authored Harmonic Accord: Themes of Poverty and Resistance in Elizabeth Prophet’s Diary for the catalogue Nancy Elizabeth Prophet: I Will Not Bend an Inch and contributed to the Barnes Foundation catalogue Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel (2021) with Disrupting Tradition: Suzanne Valadon’s “Black Venus.” Ebonie received an A.B. from Washington University in St. Louis in 2019 in Art History and Archeology, receiving a Murphy Family Prize for a Distinguished Honors Thesis in Art History and Archeology, and an A.M. in the History of Art & Architecture from Harvard University in 2022. From 2019 to 2021, Ebonie worked as a Curatorial Assistant at the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami.

Panel 2
Sherenté Mishitashin Harris (Two Spirit/they/he/she), Artist and Activist.
Harris uses image, dance, song, and story to remind their neighbors, near and far, of their history and commitments to Wamee Kuwamuneetonk Nutonksuog (All Our Beloved Relations). Born Niantic Narragansett and a citizen of the Narragansett Tribal Nation, Harris’ efforts oppose Indigenous invisibility. They are a renowned advocate for the Twospirit (LGBT Native) community after their battle for acceptance in the Powwow circuit was recorded in the documentary Being Thunder. They have been featured in the NYT, NBC, Yahoo!, and NPR, admitted into the 2022 cohort at Yale Norfolk School of Art, and are a graduate from Brown University (Magna Cum Laude) and Rhode Island School of Design (with Honors) through their 5 year Dual Degree Program. Harris is currently enrolled in the American Studies PhD program at Brown University and is publishing their first book.

Kajette Solomon (she/her), Social Equity and Inclusion (SEI) Specialist, RISD Museum
Kajette Solomon is RISD Museum’s first social equity and inclusion specialist. She endeavors to shape, implement and manage the museum’s efforts to build an equitable, diverse and inclusive institution for all. Kajette is an American Association of Museum Volunteers board member and a graduate of the inaugural class of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Leadership Initiative. She holds a BA in Art History from Arcadia University and an MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism from Purchase College. Her writing was included in the recent collection From Small Wins to Sweeping Change: Working Together to Foster Equity, Inclusion and Anti-racism in Museums (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022).

Eric Telfort (he/him), Associate Professor, Illustration, RISD
Eric Telfort is an illustrator and fine artist who earned his BFA in Illustration from RISD and after working as a production artist in the video game industry, an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Telfort has lectured throughout the US and internationally in Zimbabwe, where he was a Visual Arts Initiative artist in residence. In 2019 he received a Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson fellowship to explore the concept of creativity in poverty, and to pursue a personal independent visual novel. While teaching at RISD Telfort led award winning educational programs for youth at the Mt. Hope Learning Center located on the East Side of Providence, as well as being chair of the Art in City Life Commission. Since the fall of 2021, he has served as Department Head of Illustration at RISD.

Erin Unkefer, Ph.D. (she/her), Staff Psychologist + Gender Affirming Care Coordinator, Carnegie Mellon University
Erin received her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in Counseling Psychology, specializing in School Counseling. She received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of Georgia. She is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer,
serving in Malawi, Africa. Her professional interests include social identity development; gender affirming healthcare; the experiences of first generation college students; and acculturation concerns. She uses a relational approach in therapy and has a passion for social justice and advocacy.