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John Gritts

John Gritts


“My work is a subtle statement about unfinished promises with unfinished work in my drawings, along with Native American mascots. As an artist I want viewers to study my work closely to find my messages.”

John Gritts has been drawing since he was in elementary school. He says, “I drew only at nights and on weekends” as an adult. His full-time job was in higher education. After working in Indian education for nearly 40 years, Gritts is very well known in the tribal college community.

Born in Stillwell, Oklahoma, John attended Bacone College, Muskogee, OK, studying under Dick West and continued to complete his Bachelor of Arts in Education from Sioux Falls College, SD. He studied art at IAIA in Santa Fe, NM.

He is an artist who is deeply committed to education. He was the director of Financial Aid at Black HillsState University in South Dakota for 18 years. He then worked for nine years at the American Indian College Fund as a Program Officer. That was followed by two years at the Institute of American Indian Arts (as Director of Admissions, Recruitment Records, and Financial Aid). Finally, he spent nine years with the United States Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid. 

He loved those jobs because education was ingrained in him, John says. “I think education is the key to everything. In many of the treaties that were signed by tribes and the United States, education was part of that treaty,” he said. 

He specializes in pen and ink as well as painting. His home art studio is filled with gifts, artwork, and awards recognizing his work as an artist and an educator. He’s exhibited in art shows in New York City, South Dakota, and North Dakota, and is in the collections of the Cherokee Heritage Center, and the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Today, he is retired and resides in Golden, CO, with his wife Page and their two dogs. When asked how much time he spends creating art in his studio, he said, “Not enough.”