When viewing the Native American exhibition at the Coconino Center of the Arts, I immediately sense the traditions, the land, and the history of the Southwest and the people that have lived here long before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
From visual art and films, to music, dances and presentations, the Native American Festival of Arts & Culture tells the vital story of being a Native American in our society today. The festival offers a platform for the creativity and voices of Native Americans to be shared with people of all ages and backgrounds. The rich cultural heritage of the Southwest merges with contemporary life throughout the six weeks of programs and activities.
The exhibition, which is free and open to the public through Aug. 13, showcases the diversity of the artists involved in all of the festival activities. Master artists including Baje Whitethorne Sr., W.B. Franklin, Shonto Begay, Joe Maktima and Michael Kabodie Lomaywesa welcome the inclusion of emerging artists such as Jeremy Singer, Mae Coochyamptewa and Brandon Williams. In many of their paintings, Whitethorne and Begay weave images of people and animals, both figurative and metaphorical, into the landscape.
Franklin's large canvas' radiant with vibrant imagery and invite exploration of native traditions and culture. The abstract artwork by Maktima invokes traditional symbols in a bold and contemporary manner. And Lomaywesa's large canvas entitled "Changing Values" reflects the title, with images of the past and present intertwined and coexisting together.
Just as the artists in the exhibition and the film makers at the film festival held last weekend communicate the history, traditions, and present day reality of Native Americans in today's society, a number of people will also share their views through the Indigenous Perspectives for Positive Change presentations to be held July 16 and 17 (See related article on page ??).
In addition, over thirty artists and craftsmen offer a wide variety of art and handcrafted items at the Marketplace, also on July 16 and 17. Food, music, and performances will add to the celebration of art and culture throughout the Marketplace Weekend. Special presentations of flute music and dances by Marvin and Steven Toya will take on a nostalgic tone. The Toya brothers performed at the Coconino Center for the Arts in the early 80's, and have not been at the Center together in more than 20 years.
A new addition to the festival this year, Dancing Colors of the Southwest: Native Youth Fashion Show takes place on Saturday, July 23, at 1 p.m. Tina Macgrath, producer of the show, has put together a presentation that showcases the different styles of Native American fashion -- past, present and future. Traditions and values of each tribe distinguish the dress, and this presentation will help educate us on the traditional styles, and the influence those styles have on Native fashion today.
The influences of culture will be strongly reflected in the last two Festival activities; Ancient Materials in a Modern World, July 28, and the Youth Contest Powwow on Aug. 7. Demonstrations in silversmithing, pottery, flint knapping, and more will be held on July 28. The Powwow blends the past, present and future together as youth from our region dance, drum, and sing in the powwow circle
Thank you to all the artists, musicians, and presenters for sharing your talents, creativity, and vision at the Native American Festival of Arts & Culture. And to everyone -- please join us at the Coconino Center for the Arts over the next few weeks for a celebration and sharing of Native art and culture.
The exhibition at the Coconino Center for the Arts, 2300 N Fort Valley Road, is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. All activities are free. For more information, visit www.culturalpartners.org or call 928-779-2300.