FLAGSTAFF -- During the summer of 1983, the first Native American Festival of Arts & Culture sprouted up in Flagstaff at the Coconino Center for the Arts. The festival was well celebrated into the late '90s by the local community, Native American artists, international art collectors and people throughout the country. The festival is known to have launched the careers of many successful native artists.
According to this year's poster artist for the festival, Baje Whitethorne Sr., "A lot of artists around the Flagstaff area like, David Dawangyumtewa, Shonto Begay, Bill Franklin, Micheal Lacapa and other artists from around the country have done well and established themselves from this festival in the past."
The festival has expanded the recognition of individuals from a diversity of tribes and has represented the perspectives of local indigenous communities. After a 10-year long absence, Flagstaff Cultural Partners revived the festival last year and drew more than 4,300 visitors. This year, the festival is expected to carry on the promotion of native arts and culture. The festival takes place from July 1-Aug. 13 with various events including: Native American Art Exhibition, Southwest Native American Film/Video Festival, Marketplace Weekend, Indigenous Perspectives for Positive Change, Native American Youth Art Workshops, Native Colors of the Wind: Native Culture in Youth Clothing & Jewelry, Handicraft Demonstrations and a Youth Contest Powwow.
Whitethorne was the poster artist for the 1984 festival, which he said expanded his exposure and lead him to many opportunities, enabling him to work with youth in the community and the chance to travel showing his work internationally.
This year, Whitethorne will mentor more than 20 Native American high school and middle school students as part of the festivities. He said he enjoys this type of work and has participated in various mentoring opportunities working with schools and foundations throughout the Southwest and places like Chicago, LA, Atlanta and Florida.
Currently, he mentors students with the Grand Canyon Youth program, an eight-day river trip that encourages Native American students to build confidence and learn teamwork through various outdoor activities including artwork. Whitethorne said he has a lot of respect for what the festival has done in the past.
"The festival is different, it allows the artists to promote themselves as individuals and it had a big following in the past," he said. "It's good that the festival is coming back; many people are excited about it. It's not about the money; it's about having a community event that promotes native culture and brings people together."
The Native American Art Exhibition opening reception is Saturday July 2, 6-8 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (July 1 through Aug. 13). Coconino Center for the Arts for the Arts, 2300 N. Fort Valley Road, Flagstaff.
For more information on the festival visit www.culturalpartners.org or call 928-779-2300.
(Amy Louis is Youth Program Coordinator for Flagstaff Cultural Partners.)