By Lisa Pemberton, Puyallup Tribal News editor
Puyallup Tribal member Chris Duenas created several Coast Salish art pieces for the new Emerald Queen Casino – including some of its smallest ones.
He designed five images that will be printed on the Summit Sports Bar’s coasters. The series includes a wolf, a thunderbird and three salmon egg designs.
The decorative cardboard coasters will be used with drinks, and will likely become popular keepsakes.
The coasters are one of the many ways Puyallup tribal art is being incorporated into the nearly $450 million casino, which is set to open next month.
“I’m very excited to see our art, language and culture throughout the new casino,” Duenas said. “I am a huge proponent of keeping our culture in every facet of our lives. That’s how we will keep these practices alive and strong.”
Duenas graduated from Fife High School in 2007 and continued his education at Bates Technical College for digital media, with audio/video being the primary focus.
Duenas has been working in coastal art since 2011, and his day job is media developer for the tribe’s Language Program. He used high tech skills for some of the other casino’s pieces of artwork.
“I digitized some of art throughout the casino,” Duenas said. “I was able to work with Karen (Reed) and Sharron Reed (Nelson) as well as my brother Anthony Duenas to bring their art to a digital format so we could reach the scale necessary for some of these art pieces. I vectorized a canoe basket design by Karen Reed for the deli, several basket designs by Sharron Reed Nelson for the light fixtures in the puyaləpabš cafe, and I was also able to work with my brother on the large design that can be seen from the freeway.”
In non-tech terms: Duenas spent a lot of time on the computer making it possible for other artists to incorporate their work into large-scale projects.
“Vectorizing graphics is something I’m very comfortable with so I’m glad I was able to share that skill to achieve our goals,” he said.
Duenas also carved several small pieces that are incorporated into murals designed by tribal member Shaun Peterson for puyaləpabš café.
“I started carving a few years back,” he said. “I spent time with my brother learning to carve small pieces. This carving project was really cool because I was able to bring all that practice into something practical. I got to spend time with Shaun and go over some specific techniques that really helped.”
Duenas said he enjoyed working with the other tribal artists, and he’s happy the casino includes elements that reflect the tribe’s culture and people.
“It’s a great statement to see the Puyallup language and art in the casino because it shows we are still here,” he said.