HOPI, Ariz. - The Hopi Arts Trail won the Arizona Governor's Award for tourism for cooperative marketing best practices at the Governor's Tourism Conference in Tucson July 11.
The award is presented to a project that best exemplifies the use of "non-traditional" or creative partnerships to develop, finance and execute a cooperative marketing effort. The arts trail is an extension of marketing done by the Moenkopi Developer's Corporation (MDC) for the Moenkopi Legacy Inn under the supervision of elders of the village who envisioned economic development as a benefit of the upper village and all of Hopi.
MDC is a non-profit whose mission is to help create jobs, create opportunity and help the community. While the group focuses on Moenkopi, it is promoting the Hopi experience as a whole and the trail to help the Hopi people. The arts trail connects 12 Hopi villages and three mesas, which are each unique in their own way. It is not a literal trail but a way for visitors to connect with artists along the Hopi mesas.
"Arts and crafts have been a major part of the economy in Hopi country because a lot of people, that's how they pay their bills, that's how they make ends meet," said James Surveyor, project manager for the Hopi arts trail. "[The trail] has been something that's been needed for a long time to help these artisans."
The program provides internet, website and marketing support to artists who would have a difficult time getting their work known in any other way. With the support of the Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites, the program helps artists connect with visitors.
"Since we are a business, we are able to plug into other avenues to help our people and that's really what the Hopi Arts Trail, that's our primary goal is to do exactly that," said Wilfred Moore, president of the MDC board of directors.
He also stressed that southwest tourism is a major industry. MDC hopes to help the Hopi people tap into the tourist industry in Arizona.
"We're definitely entitled to part of that revenue from tourism," Moore said.
The trail makes it easier for tourists visiting the southwest to engage with Hopi artists, galleries and tours on their own without having to worry about where to go or how to get there.
"This definitely is an opportunity for the development corporation to alleviate some of the issues with the tourists who are interested in Hopi arts and crafts," Moore said. "It's a way of them not being intrusive on anyone else but giving the artist an opportunity to expose their artwork to those who are interested."
Surveyor said the arts trail is not a new idea but one that is long overdue. It has created an opportunity for visitors to ask simple questions about what areas are open to the public and whether people can visit certain villages.
Surveyor said with 50 percent unemployment on the Hopi Reservation, the arts trail is a reflection of Hopi culture.
"There aren't many jobs on the Hopi Reservation so a lot of people turn to arts and crafts and a lot of people in the Hopi Arts Trail are entrepreneurs, they have their own galleries. They are self-reliant and we want to encourage that and grow that," he said.
And between the Moenkopi Legacy Inn, the cafes and Denny's and the waste treatment plant, MDC has created more than 125 jobs. And since 2010, when the hotel opened, the group added another 35 jobs. The Denny's added yet another 55 jobs.
General Manager for MDC Randy Wolff said the success of the trail spills out over the whole community with increased income for the artists, the galleries and the tour guides and more jobs in the community as well.
"Over 75 percent of the people who were hired here were either unemployed or never had a job before," Wolff said. "That is a startling fact about how badly this community needed economic development. MDC, since 1982, has provided that leadership. That's a huge number of jobs for a community with just 2,000 people."
An annual art show takes place in June at the Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites, which features artists and music.
The Arts Trail features basket weavers, doll carvers, potters, jewelers and silverworkers. A brochure offers discounts on merchandise or services to tourists who have a Hopi Art Passport. The passport features the participating artists and galleries with a map and contact information and is available on the Hopi Arts Trail website. The trail continues to grow and is available for new members.
More information about the artists and how to get there is available at www.hopiartstrail.com