Louie Gong (M.Ed) is an artist, educator and public speaker who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community. Although he is best known for his highly sought after, hand-drawn custom shoes, Louie has received international recognition for a body of work that - like his mixed heritage (Nooksack/Chinese/French/Scottish) - defies categorization.
A former Child and Family Therapist, Louie started addressing racial and cultural identity professionally in 2001. He went on to become President of MAVIN, a national non-profit that raises awareness about mixed race people and families. His commentary on race and cultural identity has been featured, in MSNBC.com, The New York Times, NBC Nightly News and BBC. He continues to serve on the Advisory Board of MAVIN and Mixed in Canada.
"If we can remember 20 different ways to order our coffee, we can remember more than just six terms for describing our identity." NBC Nightly News, 2010
Louie has spent most of his career in higher education, working on behalf of low income, first generation students, first at the University of Washington's Educational Opportunity Center (TRiO) and then at Muckleshoot Tribal College.
Louie is also the founder of Eighth Generation, through which he merges traditional Coast Salish art with icons from popular culture and influences from his mixed heritage to make strong statements about identity. His trend-setting aesthetic has been featured at the Smithsonian's NMAI, the Peobody Essex Museum, and the cover of Native People's Magazine. This is remarkable considering that Louie is a self-taught artist who began in making art in 2008.
The name "Eighth Generation" references the inter tribal value of "Seven Generations", which suggests that we consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. By naming my business Eighth Generation, I embed respect for the previous generations all my work and recognize that my successes are a result of our collective effort. Eight is also a lucky number in Cantonese because, when spoken, it sounds the same as the word for prosperity.
Rather than following the well-worn pathway for artists toward working with galleries, Louie has pursued product development as a means of making his work sustainable while keeping it accessible. In 2012, Louie launched “Mockups”, a DIY art toy based on his work with youth and his desire to a make the experience of personalizing a pair of shoes more accessible. He followed up by launching home decor and phone cases in 2013. By financing and developing these products on his own, Louie hopes to blaze a trail to a greater degree of self-determination for other artists and entrepreneurs.
Collectively, Louie's unique merger of art and activism has been the subject of UNRESERVED: the Work of Louie Gong, a Longhouse Media film that was selected to screen at prestigious film festivals around the world, including Festival De Cannes and National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival; and Schuhe Machen Leute, a 2013 documentary produced in Germany.
In 2012, Louie began an artistic partnership with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian called Design Yourself: I AM NMAI, and a collaboration with Manitobah Mukluks that led to the "LG Gatherer", a limited edition boot that has already sold out many times over. In 2013, Louie participated in a collaboration with Paul Frank Industries that resulted in Limited Edition pillows, blankets and tote bags.
In 2014, Louie launched the Inspired Natives Project. The Inspired Natives Project aims to help highly skilled and motivated artists shift from either the handmade or gallery-based model of selling art to an arts entrepreneurship model where artist participate in product development and distribute to markets around the globe. With a goal of regional diversity, the first artist in the Inspired Natives Project was Acoma Pueblo artist Michelle Lowden. The most recent artist, launched on November 04, 2014, is Sarah Agaton Howes, an Ojibwe artist and teacher who specializes in floral designs.
In 2015, after many years of hard work, Eighth Generation became the first Native-owned company to offer beautiful wool blankets. The first production run was a custom designed blanket in honor of The Evergreen State Longhouse's 20th Anniversary. Following the successful launch of the wool blankets, Eighth Generation will open its flagship retail store in Seattle's Pike Place Market in summer 2016.
Louie was recently honored with the cover of Native Peoples Magazine, and Native Max Magazine's list of the "Top 10 Inspirational Natives: Past and Present" and Indian Country Today's "Faces of Indian Country 2015." He also received the Seattle Indian Health Board's Adeline Garcia's Community Service Award, through which the nation's largest Urban Indian Health Clinic recognizes community leaders for volunteer service.