Wanapum Heritage Center Highlights of a Journey


André and Associates would like to thank the Wanapum and the incredible team of artists that helped fabricate the http://www.wanapum.org/ permanent exhibits. The installments that follow provide a brief insight to each gallery and acknowledge those responsible for bringing the Wanapum Story and our design to life. When available we have provided links to the artists’ websites or social media contact information.

The Wanapum themselves deserve the credit for the success of this exhibit as they gave the exhibit their hearts, voices and talents. We would like to specifically thank Angela Buck, the project leader, for the privilege of working with the Wanapum over these past 15 years. We do not take trust given to us over the years lightly.


Wanapum Heritage Center – Highlights of a Journey

Coordinating the planning and building of an exhibit is a complicated balancing act, one that requires heart, nerves, blood and sweat and an unwavering ability to reach the final goal, regardless of perils, and pitfalls, a start-and-stop schedule, and budgetary challenges.

With the help of a malleable, flexible, workable plan, carefully chosen creative artists, unwavering client support and trust, unexpected good fortune and total commitment, (the type that money can’t buy, but ideals can); a support team forged over time in the heat of past projects, where love and pride of workmanship prevail; where the client is infused with a vision and has the dedication to carry the ball to the end goal and trusts and respects their designer.

Our relationship began in 1998 when Angela Buck and Bianca Message met during the final installation of the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. We started out helping the Wanapum upgrade their interpretive center “The Wanapum Heritge Center” next to the Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River. Now redone by Formations Inc. as a Visitor Center to interpret the Wanapum Dam and the Grant County PUDs work. We got to know them, and when the opportunity came to them through the Grant County PUD to create a new interpretive center, we entered the competition, and won.

Our journey began as we were gradually introduced to the Wanapum and their life, through village visits to the Longhouse where we planned the exhibits, enjoyed feasts and saw a little of how the Wanapum lived and felt about the land, the river, the animals, the Elders, the traditions, their past, their present, and their future. We recorded these encounters and memorialized them in interviews that became the basis of the media content for the exhibit: the Wanapum looking into the camera and revealing themselves in their own words as they faced the contradictions and problems of living in two worlds, with deep insights and much laughter, and huge hope for the future.

Much more can be said of this process as it evolved and engendered trust, friendship and mutual understanding, and it took over fifteen years with a change of cast on both sides. Working together over such a long period could not help but create enduring bonds and lifetime memories.

Of course over this time, the weight of responsibility to be the bearers of the Wanapum interpretation of themselves to the world resulted in a continually growing desire to do the right thing for them. This was not going to be a quick and easy interpretation. They were baring their heart and souls and we heard their ideas in their words… who could say it better…so both the text panels and media are their words and thoughts as they felt and spoke them. They are excellent storytellers in the right sense of the word, and, whether youth or elders, always have something compelling to say.

It should be noted that the overall vision-keeper and on-site designer for André & Associates was Bianca Message, who assembled, coordinated and directed the team that conceived and fabricated the exhibit. As quality control she was the absolute stickler who approved every aspect and most details of what was done in every area of expertise, along with Angela Buck, who was leading her own artists, from the Wanapum team. Angela was determined to ensure all Wanapum, past, present and future were honored in the exhibit.

Our next posts, leading up to Christmas, will showcase the work of the exceptional artists that are part of our team and brought these exhibits to life.