Update: Museum of Northern Arizona reschedules annual heritage festivals
Economic impact on artists a concern for museum; encourages people to support and buy Native art
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) announced its summer heritage festivals will be rescheduled and combined into one event that will take place Sept.12-13 this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan right now for the Zuni, Hopi and Navajo Festivals of Arts and Culture is one big festival that will be held outdoors at the museum.
“We are very concerned at the museum about the artists who come to our festivals,” said Kristan Hutchison, marketing director for the museum. “Those festivals were created originally and continue to be a really important economic outlet for those artists.”
One of the steps the museum is taking to alleviate some of the economic pressure on the artists who count on the festivals to sell their work and bring in money is to promote the artists on its Facebook page.
“Just as a way to help bring them more business online,” Hutchison said. “We hope that people will go and buy from those
artists that way since we can’t be a physical marketplace for them until September.”
Between the three festivals, the museum usually has about 300 hundred artists who participate.
“I think we can expect more than that with this larger festival,” said Amelia George, public programs manager for the museum. “It’s a little bittersweet. It’s a little unfortunate because we’re in a situation where no matter when we reschedule this event for we’re conflicting with other stuff that is going on. So it puts the artists in the position of having to choose between our event and another event they would have done at that time.”
But in spite of that, George thinks the museum may see more artists because they have more booth space.
“Instead of [the festival] taking over all of the museum’s galleries, we’ll be doing it outside of the museum space,” George said. “There are 63 booth spaces in the museum proper. Going outside we have almost 200.”
For the Hopi Festival and the 63 spaces, the museum normally has about 110 artists participate, which means many of the artists share booth spaces.
“Now we have by themselves, not including shared spaces, we have 186…, so, if we sell out every one of those spaces, it would be amazing,” George said. “If we have shared spaces within that, really we can accommodate between 300-400 hundred artists… and really a great opportunity for us to support more and more of the Colorado Plateau artists in the region.”
If the museum opens during the summer for its usually Thirsty Thursdays, it will have artists featured during those evenings.
“It gives us an opportunity to put 15-20 people in the courtyard during Thirsty Thursdays,” George said. “If we can and this all lightens up and we’re in a position where we can have more intimate social gatherings and have artists there, we will 100 percent do that.”
The booth fees for the festival have been discounted to try and make it so more artists can participate and the museum will wait as long as possible to charge those booth fees.
“The larger booth fees, we’re not going to start collecting those until the last minute because if for some reason we have to cancel this event, we don’t want any of those artists to be out a couple of hundred dollars for booth space,” George said.
She also explained that the museum is cutting down to the bare bones of programming and expenses, so that they can focus all of the funding the museum has back on the advertising the artists who are participating.
“We’re encouraging artists to apply, so that in the interim between now and September, we can keep the word out about their art on social media and encourage people to support these artists, as well,” George said.
The museum is also trying to gather from the artists how much money they usually bring in from the festivals because there may be some opportunities to help them get some relief though for state and federal funding.
“Our director’s been working directly on that,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison explained that while this is a difficult economic time for everyone including the artists, people still need what art and artists give them.
“It’s a time when all of us need those artists even more,” Hutchison said. “Look at your feed and look at what brightens your day. It’s musicians like Ed Kabotie, who goes out in front of his [house] and plays a song for everybody, puts it out there for free to cheer people up. And all these artists who are working on some art and posting it for free. It’s definitely a time when we need the community to come together and support these artists.”
George explained that with one big festival it’s an opportunity for the museum to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau in a new way.
“We have done some with our markets, but not to this scale,” George said. “It’s really exciting. I think it will be fun to show how there’s beauty in diversity.”
Hutchison points out that the tribes in the area have had interaction for a very long time.
“Culture has permeable boundaries. There’s differences, but there’s all this crossover that always happens,” Hutchison said. “You can see that when you bring them together.”
With the new festival, the museum has managed to break out of its museum space and spread out across campus, Hutchison said.
“That means we will have more than one performance space happening,” she said. “For people coming to see it, you’re going to have this amazing richness of art and performance and really getting to see the diversity and rich cultures of the Colorado Plateau all in this one event. I think it’s going to be really incredible.”