There's an important distinction implicit in the show of art made by Native Americans, opening Sunday, March 7 and continuing through May 30, at the Cleveland Museum of Art. True, Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection was organized by the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York. But items like dresses and masks were once — and to some degree still are — considered to belong in natural-history museums. Showing them in an art museum offers them not simply as evidence of the people who lived here before us, but as fine art.
The show's contents were collected by Eugene and Clare Thaw and given to the Fenimore Museum, which built an entire wing to house them. Of the 850 pieces they collected, about 120 are coming to Cleveland.
The diversity of the tribes from the different regions — stressed by native American advisors to the exhibit — will be among the most revelatory aspects of the show, as will notes on how Native Americans have been "handled" by the government. For example, in the 1950s, more than 5,000 Native Americans were moved to Cleveland by a federal program that aimed to eliminate reservations and encourage assimilation into urban areas.
The museum's Viva and Gala series presents a concert associated with the exhibit, featuring the Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. She exemplifies how Native Americans have incorporated technology and popular culture into their work. Her music sounds part techno and includes hip-hop and spoken word. But throughout, she uses her throat in different ways to make it resonate — to make sounds with muscles most of us use only to breathe and swallow. If that sounds odd, well, it is. She performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday March 10, in the newly renovated Gartner Auditorium (11150 East Blvd., 216.421.7350, clemusart.com). Tickets: $28-$29.
The Cleveland Orchestra has joined 93 other orchestras in a project called Orchestras Feeding America. They'll accept nonperishable food donations at the Cleveland Orchestra High School concert on Tuesday, March 9; Family Concert on Sunday, March 14; the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and Youth Chorus concert on Sunday, March 14; and the Cleveland Orchestra concerts on Thursday, March 18, and Saturday, March 20. For information, go to clevelandorchestra.com.