Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Sept. 22

Sharing native voices about COVID-19: Museum of Northern Arizona strikes a balance
Museum of Northern Arizona offers limited hours with virtual presentations, a youth art competition and possible winter market

The Museum of Northern Arizona is finding new, creative ways of supporting Native artists and talking about the effect of COVID-19 on the reservations. (Photo courtesy of MNA)

The Museum of Northern Arizona is finding new, creative ways of supporting Native artists and talking about the effect of COVID-19 on the reservations. (Photo courtesy of MNA)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — With a juried youth art competition, a possible winter market and continuing conversations about art and the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous people, the Museum of Northern Arizona has lots to offer in the coming months.

“One of the things we wanted to do when the festivals were canceled was to have a series of presentations by Native voices from Hopi, Zuni and Navajo talking about what is going on on the reservations,” said Amelia George, public program manager for MNA. “Why is [the coronavirus] hitting so hard? What is it like actually out there? How can people help? How can we as a community and the museum’s constituency come together and help support those continuing efforts on the reservations.”


Visitors observe displays at the museum. (Photo courtesy of MNA)

A presentation by Rose Tohe and Dr. Ken Bernard titled, ‘COVID on the Hopi and Navajo Nations’ was part of that conversation. As is ‘Dine COVID PSA project,’ with Chip Thomas held Oct. 12. Two other artists, Esther Belin and Cassandra Begay, who is the communications deputy for the Navajo and Hopi COVID Families Relief, will be joining him in his presentation.

Thomas’ presentation is funded by Arizona Humanities as part of the museum’s Indigenous Insights lecture series through the fall and into the winter. Prior presentations can be found at Museum of Northern Arizona’s YouTube channel.

“We wanted to have an artist’s response to the pandemic,” George said. “Chip [Thomas] is not only a primary care physician, he is also does these beautiful art installations all over the reservation.”

The Navajo Nation reached out to Thomas about doing a COVID PSA, which is a grassroots project he started. The project is an effort, supported by the Navajo Nation, to bring awareness about the importance of PPE (Personal, Protection, Equipment) and elders washing their hands and wearing masks.

“There are billboards and flyers that have gone around the Navajo Nation that Chip and several other artists worked on creating that do that very thing,” George said. “That is the foundation of what Chip will presenting on. Because he is a physician, he can also speak to the medical side of things that continue on the reservation.”

Junior Indigenous Art Exhibition and Competition

Continuing a tradition that started in 1931 by co-founder and curator of Art Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, the museum will hold a Junior Indigenous Art Exhibition and Competition this winter for youth in two age groups: ages 13-18 and ages 12 and younger.

“One of the thing we lost with the cancelation of the festivals, was the opportunity to inspire young artists,” George said. “This is something that has been part of MNA’s history from the very beginning. This is picking up that torch a little bit.”

Submissions are due to the museum by email to by 5 p.m. Arizona time Nov. 18.

Winners will be announced on Dec. 1. (Within each age group, submissions will compete for first and second-place awards in the following categories with $50 for first-place winners and $25 for second-place winners.)


2D Fine Art — to include original paintings, photography, cut paper, mixed media and drawings. Items made through photomechanical reproduction, including posters, note cards, and t-shirts are not allowed. Giclée, Iris, or other digital photographic reproduction techniques are limited only to photography.

Cultural Art — This category may include a variety of traditional, culturally-based works. Examples include but are not limited to: personal attire and accessories, figurative objects, musical instruments, beadwork, textiles, carvings, sculpture and functional objects such as bows and arrows, furniture and shields.

All entries will be displayed online in a virtual art show. Artists may submit no more than one piece and may suggest which category they would prefer their entry to be in.

To enter, submit the artist’s name, proof of tribal affiliation, artist’s age, artist statement (300 words or less), description and title of the piece and three high-quality photos of the piece.

A possible Winter Market

The museum usually hold a Winter Market at the museum, which is meant to be a winter celebration of art and an opportunity for the community to come together and support those artists just before the holiday season.

“We were originally planning to cancel this event, but we figured out a way where we can make this event happen, still be socially distanced, but also provide that important aid to Native artists,” George said. “A significant portion of the revenue and economy that is generated on the reservations come from artists sales.”

With all of the major art markets and festivals cancelled this year because of the coronavirus, the George said it was important for the museum to find creative ways to continue to give support to Native artists.

“This is one of those ways,” George said.

On the research side of MNA’s campus, there are little cabins which will be set up as pop-up artist shops. Each little cabin will have one, two or three artists inside, depending on the size of the cabin.

“Visitors can come and just enjoy wandering through this beautiful little wonderland right in front of the Peaks and support Native artists,” George said.

There will be a food vendor selling coffee and hot chocolate and something to nibble on.

“It will be a really fun, but informal way, to support Native artists,” George said.

The goal is for the Winter Market to take place the first two weekends in December (Dec. 3-5) and (Dec. 10-12), on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Eighteen to twenty artists will be in each cohort, with about 40 artists’ total.

“Safety is still 100 percent essential for everything that we do,” George said. “Absolutely wear your mask, be respectful, maintain social distancing. Some of the cabins are rather small, so we’re asking that people just be respectful and only one or two people in those spaces at a time.”

For future events including a new exhibition in November featuring large-scale paintings by Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie, visit

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