Jay Havens Art Installation at The Iroquois Museum


The artist Jay Havens spent the weeks leading up to the Iroquois Museum’s 2022 annual Labor Day festival installing a community-involved “wampum belt” along the outdoor performance pavilion that is central to festival activities.

During the four weeks that Havens worked on this piece, he welcomed museum visitors to join him in weaving “beads” onto the fence that supports the “belt”. Commonly using recycled and locally resourced materials in his visual artworks, Havens chose to use pieces of PVC pipe for this installation. To weave the PVC beads onto the fence, visitors would stand on opposite sides of the fence as they strung beads onto wire, passing the wire back and forth with Havens or another visitor as the weaving took place. While museum visitors from the local community and around the world took part in weaving this wampum belt, Havens explained the history and importance of wampum belts to them, gently raising heavy topics like broken treaties and forced removal to contextualize the colorful figures with linked hands that formed on the fence as these conversations took place.

The belt image is one designed by Havens specially for the celebratory nature of the performance pavilion area and the multicultural visitors that the museum and its events attract. The design symbolizes a diverse gathering of people coming to listen as a Haudenosaunee person (central figure in the belt, holding a two-row wampum belt) speaks.