Karl Dennis, facilitator of Michigan City’s Southern Shore Art Association’s “Native Visions” exhibit, hopes viewers of the exhibit will offer another view into Indiana’s origins.

“It’s very useful for them to think about the history of their state, and how Native Americans played a part in it.” he said.

Celebrating the exhibit's opening with a reception April 7, “Visions” is a collection of works created by more than 40 Native American inmates at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. The artists, who are members of a myriad of tribes, make up the ensemble Native American Circle at the prison.

Dennis, who is of Blackfoot Indian and Cherokee Indian descent and resides in Michigan City, is the former executive director of Kaleidoscope, Inc., a Chicago-based non-profit agency which provides services to children and families in need.

Dennis began volunteering with the prison more than two years ago with counseling and facilitating the members’ native ceremonies.

“I fell in love with it,” Dennis said. “The men who were there, and most of them were doing quite a bit of time, still wanted to be able to give something back to the community. And I found that inspiring.”

This year marks the third year the Circle and Southern Shore Art Association have come together to bring “Visions” to the gallery walls. The exhibit is made up of original two and three dimensional artworks and crafts.

Karl’s wife, Kathy Dennis, is also involved with the Circle and “Visions.”

“Some of them are just really wonderful artists and craftsmen, which is really wonderful,” she said. “It’s very interesting, the amount of study and time they put into their process.”

Proceeds from the sale of the pieces that make up “Visions” will go to Camp New Happenings, an Indiana organization that provides camps to children of prisoners, and the Potawatomi Group at the Fulton County Historical Society in Rochester. Also, any art remaining following the exhibit will be donated to the Indiana Head Start Association.

Additionally, Southern Shore will host a lecture and a screening of the documentary, “Like Birds in a Wind Storm,” at 2 p.m. April 15. The film chronicles the hardships and tragedies faced by Potawatomi Indians who were forced to embark on the Potawatomi Trail of Death in 1838.

Southern Shore Art Association is open Noon to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.

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