Portfolio of Jesse Heinzen

Sequoyah’s Story
Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, Vonore, TN - 2018

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The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is dedicated to telling the story of Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee writing system. Despite his numerous challenges facing ridicule, doubt and family rebellion, Sequoyah persisted and created a written language for the Cherokees. This major exhibit renovation brings Sequoyah’s story to life with impactful multimedia experiences.

The production of the multimedia experiences for Sequoyah Birthplace Museum involved extensive collaboration with the Eastern Band of Cherokee and included Cherokee actors Wes Studi, DeLanna Studi, and Mike Crowe.

Producer, Director, Editor, Sound Designer, Media and System Design

Exhibit Development and Design: Henley Company with Rummel Design
Exhibit Fabrication: Color-Ad, Inc.
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The Mystery: Who Was Sequoyah? is a brief and powerful introduction to Sequoyah and his significance. Visitors enter a circular space seemingly surrounded by forest. As the show begins, video is projected as the narrator takes us from Sequoyah’s birth in a traditional Cherokee home to the U.S. Capitol where Sequoyah is now represented in Statuary Hall. As the video fades, several significant individuals are named and their statues are illuminated behind a scrim, eventually revealing a statue of Sequoyah.
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The Transformation: From Sounds to Symbols portrays Sequoyah’s dramatic journey to create the Cherokee Syllabary. Visitors enter another circular theater space, this time with a scrim depicting the exterior of a cabin. When the show begins, the cabin interior is revealed behind the scrim. As the story unfolds, Sequoyah, and eventually his daughter Ayoka, are represented visually as shadows on the back wall of the cabin. A large piece of “paper” comes to life on the table as Sequoyah tries several variations of symbols leading to the eventual syllabary. Other visual effects create a glowing fire in the fireplace and the passing of seasons out the window.
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The Spirit of Sequoyah appears at first to be a large portrait of Sequoyah sitting in a cabin. When this piece is activated, Sequoyah (played by Wes Studi) comes to life, greets the visitor, explains the lessons he’s learned in life and passes on words of encouragement.
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Additional media experiences include a treaty interactive that shows Cherokee land cessions over time as users scroll a slider from left to right as well as an ambient audio-only piece representing the distant sounds of battle.