VINITA – The Anna Mitchell Cultural and Hospitality Center of the Cherokee Nation officially opened its doors on October 3 and welcomed CN representatives and visitors. The facility is located at the intersection of Interstate 44 and historic Route 66.
The facility is named after the late Cherokee National Treasure Anna Belle Mitchell, known for restoring the Southeast pottery style to Cherokee arts. The tribe’s pottery tradition did not continue after it moved to Indian Territory in the 1830s until Mitchell began making pottery in the 1960s.
“It’s important because it shows that we continue to provide work opportunities and our employees to learn more about our language, culture, art and history,” said CN Chief Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
The Visitor Center is a $5 million investment in cultural tourism focused on Cherokee culture, art and economic impact. The two-story, 9,400 square foot building sits on eight acres and includes a gift shop, cafe, exhibit gallery and space for the community to attend classes and cultural events.
“There’s a full range of programs that are going to run, using the classroom space downstairs, like pottery, language, sewing, just about everything we teach anywhere in the Cherokee Nation,” said Victoria Vazquez, vice president of the CN Tribal Council.
Vazquez added that she and her family are honored that the facility is named after her mother.
“It means the world to me and my family because we never imagined such a thing could happen in Vinita, let alone be pottery and carry our mother’s name,” she said.
She added that her sister Julie McPeek and her sons were on hand to witness the event.
“They were in the audience to see all the speeches and all the presentations. And I know everyone was overwhelmed with gratitude and thanks,” Vazquez said.
The location of the facility plays an important role for cultural tourism, Hoskin said.
“Vinita is conveniently located along major arteries, Route 66 and I-44, taking the world off the turnpike and Route 66 to experience Cherokee culture. It’s important because a lot of the native stuff there isn’t very authentic, because people come here, they can see authentic Cherokee culture,” Hoskin said. “I think it helps us show the world what it means to be Cherokee. And we need to be relevant in the public consciousness for many reasons. For our own citizens, though, I hope it makes it more accessible. I want to say that there is a real thirst to learn history, to learn art, to have a truly culture-based experience and I think for our citizens in the region, this will be a great opportunity to do.
The center’s art exhibit, “Anna’s Legacy: A Cherokee Pottery Renaissance,” features seven Cherokee artists, including Cherokee National Treasures Bill Glass Jr., Jane Osti, Lisa Rutherford, and Troy Jackson, as well as Carrie Lind, Crystal Hanna, and Tama Roberts. Mitchell influenced each artist in one way or another, as seen in the signs throughout the exhibition.
Cherokee art can also be seen outside the facility in “The Vessel”, which is a landscape feature surrounding “A Bundle of Seven Arrows”, a sculpture by Cherokee National Treasure Demos Glass, located on the east side of the building.
The Anna Mitchell Cultural and Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 953 E. Illinois Ave.