Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Tue, Oct. 27

Hopitutuqaiki Art School raises the bar in art education
Seven years of skilled mentoring, technical approach sets school in class by itself

Photo/Rosanda Suetopka Thayer<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Harry Kisto is one of the students in Hopitutuqaiki’s “Traditional Hopi weaving class,” which is being offered this summer. This weaving class is four weeks long, which features three phases of weaving discipline.

Photo/Rosanda Suetopka Thayer<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Harry Kisto is one of the students in Hopitutuqaiki’s “Traditional Hopi weaving class,” which is being offered this summer. This weaving class is four weeks long, which features three phases of weaving discipline.

THIRD MESA, Ariz. - Summer art school classes started on June 6 for this extremely successful art school "Hopitutuqaiki," situated on the Hopi Reservation, Third Mesa, for a seventh straight year.

Hopitutuqaiki art class offerings are varied and include contemporary oil-acrylic painting, airbrush painting, poetry writing and photography. Hopitutuqaiki art classes also offer traditional Hopi art techniques such as belt weaving, kilt weaving, basket making and trapunto quilt making. Hopitutuqaiki's summer art school also emphasizes small classrooms, which promotes a more personal approach to art techniques with classes of inter-generational students. Not only are there younger as well as older students, but the school is also open to non-Natives interested in these art areas. This results in a supportive atmosphere of cross-cultural exchange, global communication and Native understanding about art that is greatly enhanced through attendance in this Third Mesa art school.

Dr. Robert Rhodes, who serves as the school facilitator, is extremely pleased with the enrollment numbers this year for Hopitutuqaiki. The past seven years of success and generous monetary donations from art patrons and supporting organizations who recognize the need to provide art education to local community students and adults, is a reward that is just beginning to show its full fruition.

One of the "golden" rewards of Hopitutuqaiki is to promote lost art forms that used to be a standard in all Hopi communities. These art forms - traditional belt weaving, basket making, poetry or photography - would quickly dwindle if Hopitutuqaiki didn't provide the supplemental education experiences through its Hopi and non-Native master teachers.

Though many younger Hopis would have traditionally learned these art forms at home through their own family members or godparents, less of that is being taught. This special art school is filling some of that void.

This was apparent in the weaving classes taught by Marvin Pooyouma, just one of Hopitutuqaiki's master teachers. Pooyouma, from the Corn Clan of Hotevilla, has taught traditional Hopi weaving for three years. Before that, he taught one year in Bacavi.

Pooyouma has six new weaving recruits this summer who he will mentor under his watchful and guiding eye for 13 months. The youngest student is 13-years-old.

The first phase of Pooyouma's weaving class is to show a simple Navajo style of belt making. This is the first stage to familiarize the students with weaving tools and will end with the completion of a 48-inch long belt.

The second phase for his students is to learn how to use the loom with a traditional Hopi pattern on one side of the belt using simple, single file lines of weaving on the back side of the belt, in a longer length.

The last phase of the belt making class is to show the students a more complicated form of Hopi traditional belt weaving, which has two separate patterns on both front and back. This utilizes Hopi traditional colors of red, black and green cotton yarn.

All three of these pieces are part of the Hopi weaving discipline, which encourages much math use and spatial science to have the pattern come out evenly with distinct pattern alignment.

Pooyouma himself was a late starter in his weaving career. He attended high school in Tucson but was always fascinated when he was home during the summer months with watching his grandfather, Gene Nuvahoyeoma and his godfather Neil Kayquaptewa who were both master weavers. He never had the nerve to ask either one of them to teach him.

It was after he graduated from high school that Pooyouma became very earnest in learning to weave. He became determined to make his own belts for himself and his growing family.

Along with his brother Steven, they started watching and created their own special weaving notebook to teach themselves how to weave. Pooyouma would rattle off the numbers of strings and number of tampings while his brother wrote these all down in a notebook.

"We would see where our pattern would go off and a few times, we had to pull the whole thing apart and we would be back at square one by the end of the day instead of making any progress," he said. "But we didn't let that stop us, we just kept on."

Pooyouma said, "I really enjoy my students at Hopitutuqaiki. My youngest student right now is 13-years-old, Andrew Lowe," Pooyouma Nsaid. "I can see by their everyday progress, that these students really appreciate how long it takes to weave a belt and what kind of materials it takes to create such an art piece, the discipline of the art and I really like to see their color experimentation."

"Though I want them to do at least one of the required belts in Hopi traditional colors, I have had a few students who just took off on their own color combinations with just eye dazzling results. I have been so proud of all of them, and to see their adventurousness, their freedom with color combinations, it's pretty thrilling," he said.

All art classes at Hopitutuqaiki are kept small for this type of student-teacher bonding, keeping personal development and self-esteem building at its most enriching. This is partly why the school has garnered such state and national art education attention.

With less than 10 Hopi traditional weavers currently left at just the village of Hotevilla, this weaving art form could have been on the road to art extinction. However, with master teachers such as Pooyouma who encourage, gently and respectfully guiding their students through Hopitutuqaiki, this art skill will live on through this new age of local students.

For more information about Hopitutuqaiki or to donate a monetary gift to the school's continued art offerings each summer, contact Dr. Robert Rhodes at (928) 734-2433 or visit the school's website at

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