Mobile art follows General George Custer’s controversial history

A Michigan native is following the roots of a controversial historical figure.

Christopher Olszewski’s project, “Tracing the Footsteps of General George Armstrong Custer” is a traveling art project that stopped at NMU Monday night.  Olszewski is half Chippewa, and wanted to highlight the duality of Custer’s life, from a Civil War hero to someone who killed Native Americans.

“I was trying to find someone in history that I could kind of look into from my high school history classes and things,” he said.  “So it has a little bit more of a connection that way, so it’s like ‘Okay, this is what I learned about this guy but they never told me these other things that went on.”

“By using (Custer) as this kind of lightning rod it really sparks these kind of conversations, so as I’m going from place to place-like this (NMU) is more of an academic setting, but even if I’m in a parking lot Walmart and I put this piece up, people come up and engage with the piece itself.”

People were able to express themselves by writing on the canvas covering a Pontiac Montana minivan.

“Everybody that comes and works with it has their own kind of baggage, historical baggage to bring with them,” Olszewski said.

“I was down in Monroe [Custer’s childhood hometown], and it was really interesting-even there, where his monument is, there’s this kind of group that do not want that monument there anymore and there’s this other group that really thinks it’s an important part of their cultural history, and so there’s this duality that goes on.  That’s why I have the project behind me here split in half, there’s the white and then there’s the red, so it’s the two sides of the coin: some things are good, some things are not so good.”

Olszewski will travel with the van and canvas to Little Big Horn in Montana.  For more information on Olszewski’s project, click here.