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SAR Learns! $50,000 Awarded to Support Indigenous Artists

Apr 20, 2021

Indian Arts Research Center Vaults, Photo by Byron Flesher

Indian Arts Research Center Vault 1, 2019, photo by Byron Flesher.

Native American artists receive one-time funding for projects aimed at promoting intergenerational learning following the ongoing impact of COVID-19 

Out of a desire to support intergenerational learning and creativity during the pandemic, the School for Advanced Research, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, announces a new one-time initiative, SAR Learns! Developed to inspire new work and to assist with knowledge transmission specifically within the context of the ongoing pandemic, the program will distribute $50,000, utilizing re-directed grant funds provided by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, that will enable sixteen artists to launch or complete a variety of proposed projects.

“As the pandemic continued to progress over the course of the last year and opportunities to sell work continued to be limited,” Elysia Poon, director of SAR’s Indian Arts Research Center (IARC) states, “it became increasingly apparent how much the artist community, especially the Native artist community, was struggling. From our conversations with artists, we saw how this, in addition to the stress of the pandemic impacting Native communities at higher rates, heightened the need to respond in a direct way.”

The selected artists, who will be utilizing COVID-safe measures through the duration of their projects, were chosen from an application pool of former SAR Native artist fellows. SAR’s IARC hosts three Native American artists each year for a residential fellowship. Over eighty artists have participated in these fellowships.

Reflecting on the importance on the new project, Poon adds, “The resiliency and strength of the artists and communities we work with is immense. It is a true privilege to be able to support so many projects during these trying times, and we are thankful to our funders for their willingness to work with us to redirect our restricted programmatic funding from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies to better assist and more immediately serve the current needs of Native artists.”

The awardees are as follows: 

Venancio Aragon (Diné) will be creating a lending library of weaving materials, equipment, and educational literature for the benefit of his community.  

Nanibaa Beck (Diné) will record interviews with her paternal relatives in Pinon, Arizona. These stories will be the inspiration for a collaborative collection created by herself and her father, Victor Beck Sr., called the Shímá Hooghan Collection. 

Aric Chopito (Zuni Pueblo) will work with his twin sons to create a full-size Pueblo turkeyfeather blanket. His hope is to bring back a lost art form that is nearing the brink of extinction. 

Brent Michael Davids (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation) will research and compose a new movement of his large work, Requiem for America. This new movement will focus on the Navajo Long Walk, as well as the genocidal exploits of Kit Carson. Requiem for America is a journey into an unremembered past and utilizes music to publicly tell Native histories from an Indigenous point of view.  

Max Early (Laguna Pueblo) will be working with a small group of Laguna community members, aged five to eighty-five, on a pottery class. The nearly six-month project focuses on the tenets of pottery and will instill the importance of prayer, patience, and pottery making at Laguna. 

Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo/Tewa) will be working with his parents and teenage daughter to transfer the knowledge of pottery making within his family. This project will include traditional cultural practices, process, and historical knowledge and incorporate the Tewa language. 

Louie Garcia (Tiwa/Piro Pueblo) will be teaching a virtual Pueblo weaving class for roughly ten Pueblo youth to further expand the intergenerationality of Pueblo weaving traditions. Students will not only learn belt weaving, they will also learn about the history of weaving in the Pueblo Southwest. 

Wayne Nez Gaussoin (Diné/Picuris Pueblo) will engage youth in oral history projects with their own families. The goal is to build community awareness of these oral histories and to encourage dialogue. 

Melissa Henry (Diné) will create a Navajolanguage version of her film This Is a Hogan (originally in English) and also turn it into an e-book. The film and e-book, which is an exploration of the concept of home, will be distributed for free.  

Harold Littlebird (Laguna/Kewa Pueblos) will record his unpublished poetry into CD format, which will be his fourth recording. He hopes that through this recording, he will help to pass on Pueblo culture and life values to future generations. The first hundred CDs will be gifted to resource centers and be made available to the public.  

Estella Loretto (Jemez Pueblo) will be working with her daughter and granddaughter to create a piece that involves their thoughts about love, strength, family traditions, and values. They will be working with oil clay, which will give them the flexibility and time to explore this project together. 

Jonathan Loretto (Cochiti/Jemez Pueblos) will be working with multiple generations in his community to create a three-panel room divider that reflects the situation we currently face. The project explores how his community is dealing with COVID and serves as a reminder of our shared fragility. 

Duane Maktima (Laguna Pueblo/Hopi) will be researching Southwest mosaic shell and beadwork jewelry. He will be creating three to five works based on this research and looks forward to sharing the information he gathers publicly, especially with members of other Pueblo jewelry-making families. 

Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo/Tewa) will create a series of five one-hour interviews, podcast style, to record the life experience of Pueblo elders who are teachers, artists, and thinkers. When Elders Speak documents Pueblo elders who are willing to share rich cultural life experiences. Nora will be working with her son Zak to produce this series.  

Ulysses Reid (Zia Pueblo) will be mentoring his daughter and niece in the process of making traditional Zia pottery. He looks forward to sharing the knowledge, skills, and cultural traditions he learned from his own mentors. 

Kathleen Wall (Jemez Pueblo) will conduct community-based research on the historic events, cases, and trials relating to the land claim for the Valles Caldera. She plans to interview tribal members to learn about the cultural ramifications of the current land inaccessibility and will create an artwork based on this research. Her goal is to educate both herself and her community.

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