‘Spirit Totems’ — Acclaimed Native American artist from Kansas unveils new work at JCCC campus

Spirit totems

Native American artist Doug Coffin, who is from Lawrence, Kan., says the five totem poles that are part of "Spirit Totems" are like the "traditional totem poles from the Northwest, this is my version of them." The totems now stand between the Hugh L. Libby Career and Technical Education Center and the Gym on JCCC's campus. Above, a digital rendering of the finished totem pole installation.

Visitors to Johnson County Community College may see a new site on campus.

The college in Overland Park is now home to a new permanent installation of five, 30-foot tall metal totems called “Spirit Totems.”

The totems were created by Doug Coffin, a Native American sculptural artist, who says his roots have always influenced his work.

“I’ve been inspired by native work and fashion, and interpreting it into contemporary from the traditional,” Coffin said. “Like the traditional totem poles from the Northwest, this is my version of them.”

The totems were installed within a four hour period and now permanently sit between the Hugh L. Libby Career and Technical Education Center and the Gym on JCCC’s campus.

Coffin was born and raised in Kansas and is of Potawatomi and Creek heritage. He grew up on the grounds of Haskell Indian Nations University, known as Haskell Institute at the time, in Lawrence.

The totem poles being installed on the JCCC campus earlier this month. Photo credit Nikki Lansford.

He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Kansas and his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Jewelry from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

Currently, he lives and works in New Mexico.

To date, Coffin’s artwork has been included in more than 40 public collections, including the White House Sculpture Garden and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

His pieces have also been displayed internationally in places such as the Grand Palais in Paris.

“It’s been amazing,” Coffin said reflecting on his 42-year career creating sculptures. “I’ve gotten to travel a lot because of my artwork.”

JCCC says the “Spirit Totems’ installation was entirely funded by donations from local community members Ron and Phyllis Nolan.

The five totems at the community college are just one stop on the way to completing Coffin’s plan to place “Spirit Totems” at points across the county.

“Hopefully, this is kind of a boulder in the pond, and hopefully people are going to see this, become aware of it and maybe want to have me produce something someplace in Kansas City area,” Coffin said.