Heritage Festival returns to Museum of Northern Arizona in July
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- After a year-long hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum of Northern Arizona’s Heritage Festival returns in a new form during four weekends in July.
Each weekend will bring a new cohort of artists and performers bringing more representation from all the Native people of the Colorado Plateau — but in a way that keeps the number of people within safety guidelines and ample space for social distancing.
Interim Public Program Manager at MNA Darvin Descheny said the museum is taking every safety precaution it can and has extended the festival over a month in order to not have all artists gathered too closely together in one place.
The museum will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the festival. Advance tickets are available online. Presentations will happen throughout the week and will be available online for those who cannot attend in person.
Descheny said by getting an advance ticket, attendees can reserve their spot for the performances and artist demonstrations.
Descheny, has been attending festivals at the Museum of Northern Arizona since he was a child. His mother, Vivian, is a weaver and brought Descheny along as an assistant. He won several ribbons himself from the Heritage Festival.
“The experience has really culminated into what I know today — the festival and running the festival — I really have a lot of that in my mind,” Descheny said. “Running the festival is really surreal to me. It’s like, ‘Wow. I’m in charge of what I used to participate in in the past.’”
Descheny admits that the transition can be a little confusing, not just for him, but for the artists he has known all of his life.
“It’s hard to switch perspectives from being an artist to then controlling what artists are doing,” Descheny added that artists express surprise that he is not participating but is in charge of the festival instead.
“I say, ‘Yes. I’m here to serve you guys.’ And as both an artist and an indigenous person, I know a lot of the perspectives and fixing some of the little things that make a big difference during the festivals,” he said.
Native artists are responding indigenous representation in a positive way to Descheny said representing them well and organizing the festival respecting Native heritage is important.
“It’s a big responsibility,” Descheny said. “As far as indigenous representation at the museum, I think that’s so critical for any institution, especially one holding indigenous collections and hosting festivals like this.”
It can be as simple as a photo chosen for marketing and Descheny said saying no to an image that is sensitive can have a big impact.
“I really have insight on some of the taboos and some of the insights on artists,” Descheny said. “It really helps me with this position. But even like programming itself, organizing the events and what people might like is also a large part of the job. Curating events and programs, dances and performances, it is coming from an indigenous perspective and I think that’s important.”
But one of the most important parts of the festival is the impact the festival will have for Native artists and their families.
“It’s important for the artists to sell their work,” Descheny said. “These festivals often act as the only economic income for artists who are living out on the reservations. So we are trying our hardest to really make this successful for them.”
For the community, beyond supporting the artists, is the opportunity to engage in all the programming the festival offers.
“Another reason is to just experience culture that you wouldn’t normally experience here in Flagstaff,” Descheny said. “It’s a great chance to learn. It’s a great chance to support artists. And, even just socially, it’s just good. It’s a good atmosphere here at the museum whenever festivals are happening. That’s exciting.”
More information and for the schedule throughout July and to buy tickets is available at https://musnaz.org/all-upcoming-events/heritagefestival/.