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Induction Category & YearArts and Entertainment 1992
Home TownCalifornia

   JoAnne Bird
Champion of Excellence

Legends Bio
 Unique, talented, and accomplished describe this South Dakota Hall of Fame honoree. People come from all walks of life, and JoAnne Bird’s life is another unique and extraordinary story. She was born in Oakland, California, in 1945 and was raised by her grandmother in northeastern South Dakota near Sisseton. JoAnne said she knew at an early age her destiny was to be an artist. After graduating from high school in Flandreau, SD, she went on to Dakota State University in Madison to receive her art training. She continued her art education at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

JoAnne is a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. She lives in Bushnell, SD, and is married to recording artist, Gordon Bird. The Birds have three daughters. The family plays a major role in preserving its Indian culture from JoAnne’s art works to performing contemporary traditional Native American music. JoAnne’s paintings and sculptures reflect her Native American heritage. Much of her work is spiritual in nature and dates back to legends and history. JoAnne considers herself an impressionist. She discovered her impressionistic technique one day after feeling frustrated. JoAnne said, “I threw paint at the canvas…I was a realist and I couldn’t figure out what I wanted…and I was disgusted and I threw the paint. Then I realized I could control that throwing. It wasn’t just an accident. It’s free and it’s loose and it’s like nature.” The paintings come straight from her subconscious; she never plans ahead of time. “When I see what’s in the painting, I paint what I visualize,” Bird says. Her paintings are created by the use of a palette, a knife, a brush, and layered colors of paint. Bird says she works into the night, starting around 9 p.m., and continuing in her studio until morning, playing music of Beethoven or Bach.

JoAnne Bird has earned state, national, and international recognition as an accomplished artist. She has won numerous awards, and her paintings can be found in museums and private collections. She was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1992 as “Artist of the Year.” JoAnne says, “If you’re doing the best of your ability and living right and doing right, the paths do open. All I can do is just keep doing the best I can.”
accomplished having great talent and skill
contemporary of the present day; current
destiny the power that some people believe decides what will happen in life
extraordinary unusually excellent; deserving attention
impressionist an artist that uses a style of painting that focuses on general tone and effect, rather than details
inducted to admit or bring in as a member
palette a thin, oval board with a thumb hole at one end used by painters for holding and mixing colors
subconscious present in one's unknown mind
technique the manner and ability with which an artist uses technical skills
visualize to recall or form mental images or pictures
Extended Activities

Take a look at some of JoAnne’s artwork at her website. Choose one of your favorites and write a description of what you see and how it makes you feel. Try answering these questions:

What is happening in this picture? What makes you say that?

What more can you find?

Common Core Standards 4.W.1 (ELA) • 4.L.3 (ELA)

SD Standards

More of JoAnne’s paintings can be seen at JoAnne Bird Artwork Photo Gallery. Look closely at a few and notice the rich, bold colors that JoAnne uses in her paintings. Focus on one of the colors that you see and create a poem about that color. Try “Color My World” or another form you like at Instant Poetry Forms.

Common Core Standards 4.W.9 (ELA) • 4.RL.5 (ELA) • 4.L.5 (ELA)

SD Standards

JoAnne has sold her paintings around the world. Imagine that she needs to drive to a New York museum to deliver a painting. Calculate the distance JoAnne would travel from Bushnell, SD to New York City. You might try using Distance Calculator. Set up a table to show how many miles per day JoAnne would need to drive if she wanted to arrive 3, 4, or 5 days. Add a few other number of days to extend your table.

Common Core Standards 4.RI.7 (ELA) • 4.OA.3 (Math) • 4.NBT.4 (Math) • SMP 1, 4 ,5, 6 (Math)

SD Standards

JoAnne is a Dakota Sioux. Learn more about JoAnne’s heritage by exploring Native American Life on the Plains in the 1800's. Follow the links of the site as if you were Leaping Doe or Running Buck. Print out the note sheet and record your online adventures in the 1800’s to share with your classmates.

Common Core Standards 4.RI.1 (ELA) • 4.RI.3 (ELA) • 4.W.8 (ELA)

SD Standards

It’s your turn to try painting like JoAnne Bird. After studying a few of her paintings, create a painting of your own in a style similar to JoAnne’s. You might try Sumo Paint as an online canvas. While you create you may want to listen to some Bach or Beethoven, just as JoAnne does while she paints. You can listen to classical music online at Classical Connect or perhaps your music teacher can help you find a recording you’ll enjoy.

Common Core Standards

SD Standards

JoAnne Bird Art Video
Image Gallery
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