HOPI R2 shows blend of Native art and technology to students at Thomas Elementary
Duane Koyawena shares Native artwork and technology with students

Duane Koyawena was invited to  Thomas Elementary School in Flagstaff to show HOPI R2 to display the artwork and talk about its construction and engineering. (Photos/Flagstaff Unified School District)

Duane Koyawena was invited to Thomas Elementary School in Flagstaff to show HOPI R2 to display the artwork and talk about its construction and engineering. (Photos/Flagstaff Unified School District)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — HOPI R2 visited Thomas Elementary School Sept. 22 to the surprise of many excited students and Star Wars fans.

Duane Koyawena, the artist who painted R2, conducted several presentations to students. Koyawena painted R2 with Hopi cultural symbols and designs, and Joe Mastroianni built the droid.

Koyawena was invited to show HOPI R2 to display the artwork and talk a little about its construction and engineering. He also talked about his identity as a Hopi tribal member, who he is as an artist and his interest in Star Wars.

So, what inspired the building of OPI R2?

The idea came about when Koyawena attended an exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona curated by Tony Thibodeau, director of research and collection at the museum. They were displaying Star Wars art, many of the artists were Native Americans who had interests in such artwork.

“They wanted an R2 unit but couldn't afford to bring one,” Koyawena said. “And so, they asked one of the local gentlemen, who is the marketing director's husband from the Museum of Northern Arizona, if he could possibly build one. He was able to and so he asked me, since it was an exhibit for Indigenous art, if I'd be interested in painting it for him. So, I did, and painted him with Hopi pottery-style designs.”

The HOPI R2 was completed in 2019 and has since made several appearances. The students at Thomas Elementary were excited to see it.

“(The students) were attracted to it. They were supper happy ... I think the idea of meeting a droid for the first time, an actual robot that moves around ... a lot of the kids were really excited and impressed by it," Koyawena said.

Koyawena said the reception at Thomas Elementary was great and he enjoyed his time there. He enjoys taking the droid around for presentations and he plans to attend other exhibits in the future. He has conducted presentations on the droid at Coconino High School, the Children's Museum in Phoenix, the Heard Museum, schools in Kayenta and Tuba City, Hopi fairs and events, and many conferences.

Aside from painting HOPI R2, Koyawena's artwork also includes custom-designed shoes, paintings, murals, drawings and hand-painted custom skateboards. His work can be viewed at dkoyawenaarts.com.

Koyawena is a Hopi tribal member, his clan is Taawawungwa (Sun Clan) and he is from the Village of Sipaulovi on Second Mesa on the Hopi Reservation.

Information provided by Flagstaff Unfied School District.

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