Arnold Richardson

Richardson's efforts to revitalize the cultural heritage of eastern North Carolina's American Indians have long been credited for the resurgence of artistic vitality among the eastern tribes. Richardson is a musician and an artist working in many different indigenous artistic traditions. Throughout a career spanning more than four decades, Richardson has taught tribal arts traditions to the Haliwa-Saponi as well as educating other state recognized tribes about revitalizing their own heritage.
A list of Richardson's accomplishments is staggering both for its depth and breadth. Every few years finds him researching and mastering a new tradition that he then teaches to a growing number of interested students at his home and in various communities in our state. Most recently, in addition to his prize-winning stone sculpture, pottery and beadwork, he has been recognized for the excellence of his gourd carving, an art form that he continues to perfect even while engaging in activities as varied as touring with the North Carolina Symphony and welcoming students of all ages, abilities, and ethnicities into his home in the Haliwa-Saponi community of Hollister.
"Arnold Richardson has studied, mastered and taught many of the artistic and performance traditions that mark contemporary eastern North Carolina Indian cultural expression," said Sally Peterson, Director of the NC Folklife Institute. "Many Eastern Indian artists today cite Mr. Richardson's influence, instruction and inspiration as fundamental to their own artistic development."
In the middle 1960s, Richardson was presented an old traditional Iroquois love flute by the highly respected Iroquois Indian, Tom Two Arrows, and was told that he was to become the flute carrier. For several years after, Richardson carried this special gift, only playing it occasionally. The American Indian Flute, sometimes known as Love Flute or Flageolet, is the pure American art form. It is the oldest melodic instrument in the Western Hemisphere and was originally intended to be played by only young men as they were courting a young lady.
However, some individuals in New York heard him play and invited him to perform at several Indian festivals in the area. His extraordinary gift of flute playing brought him immediate notoriety as a top American Indian flutist in the East. Even with all of the recognition of his music, he still did not feel that his music should be recorded, only heard live. He received many requests for performances, and among those was the Kennedy Center for the Arts during the Miss Indian USA pageant. After much persuasion, he produced his first recording in 1989, entitled Spirits in the Wind, from his home using a tape recorder. Ultimately, the North Carolina State Arts Council heard the recording and awarded him a Folk Arts Grant to produce Roanoke. The public response was overwhelming and the debut live performance of Roanoke was at the Hunter Mountain Indian Festival in New York on Labor Day weekend in 1992.
S.O.A.R. (Sound of America Records), a national Indian recording and distribution company in New Mexico, offered Richardson a contract in 1994. As a result, Moon Spirits, a remake of Roanoke, was produced on cassette and CD. The following year a second recording was released, titled Spirits in the Wind, a remake of the first home recording of the same title.
In 1996, Richardson signed with Astromusic to produce Dances for the New Millennium with Gerald Jay Markoe, a well known producer of ambient music. Richardson also appears on Arctic Refuge, produced by Soundings of the Planet; Between Mother Earth and Father Sky, produced by Narada; and Soaring Hearts, produced by Sounds of America Recordings.
After being absent from the recording studio for a couple of years, Richardson returned to recording, and in January of 2000, he released Center of the Universe, a blending of the red cedar flute with ambient sounds from the synthesized keyboards and nature. His latest release, in August of 2000, Transition Beyond Tradition, a tribute to New York City, is an up-tempo, melodic interpretation of the night sounds of the city. Next in production will be Spirit and Soul, introducing "Voices of the Soul." These two exciting, dynamic female voices, singing as one in the tradition of their Native American heritage, have found their way into Richardson's music through a well orchestrated plan of "The Ancients."
After Spirit and Soul, MU, The Lost Continent, A Native American Perspective, is ready for release. This recording, thanks to Richardson's extraordinary ability to interpret legends melodically, will take the listener on a trip to the legendary continent of MU.
It is said by many in the music industry that Richardson is one of the few, or possibly the only, flute player that actually plays complete melodies on the red cedar flute as opposed to "notes and sounds."
Richardson is also an accomplished percussionist. In his early years as a musician, he was the percussionist with bands and orchestras on cruise ships, as well as with many name bands in the New York area.
Richardson was the American Indian Folk Artist for the North Carolina Arts Council and the state's community colleges from 1982 through 1989. Before devoting most of his time to his music, Richardson was considered by many to be one of the best stone sculptors in the east. He is accomplished at portraying traditional Native American stories and legends through his stone sculptures, as well as through hand-carved gourds. Most of the flutes that are used on his recordings, he designed and crafted himself. He also handcrafts flutes to offer for sale when he performs at numerous festivals, pow-wows and other events throughout the year.
Many museums across the country have his stone sculptures as part of permanent displays showing the works of Native American artists. One wall of his office displays the many certificates, awards, ribbons and plaques he has received for his consistently fine work. The Greensboro Indian Art Gallery and Museum in North Carolina featured a large display of his hand-carved gourds from February through May of 2001. He is still routinely called upon by organizations in North Carolina to travel there in the capacity of a consultant on American Indian arts and culture and frequently conducts classes for the youth, encouraging them to nourish their heritage.
Richardson has been active in Indian affairs for more than 25 years, and he has spent many years in the past working for various tribes in the east. Several of those years were spent working in Washington, D.C. While living in Kentucky, he served four years as an appointed Commissioner on Governor Patton's Kentucky American Indian Heritage Commission.
Richardson also presents educational programs in the schools in addition to maintaining his performance schedule. Kentucky Educational Television filmed Richardson at work in his studio, as well as in outdoor settings, and the resulting program was aired on the KET network.
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