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Contemporary Indigenous Artists Transfer Knowledge with "SAR Learns!" Project Grants

Updated: May 7, 2021

It's our quest as art educators to better Connect our students with the excellent contemporary artists who actually look like our students, though they may not yet be in the art history books. Transfer of cultural knowledge to the next generation is the very purpose of the SAR Learns! grant of $50,000, awarded this spring to several indigenous New Mexico artists. I'd like to highlight just a few here for us to feature in art curriculum in the coming year. Please head to the School for Advanced Research webpage to learn more.

Melissa Henry (Diné) teaches art at Wood Gormley Elementary School of Santa Fe Public Schools and makes films. According to Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, she "spent her childhood herding sheep, caring for livestock and playing in the forest. Today, she makes innovative Navajo-language films that appeal to people of all ages and cultural backgrounds." She was a 2013 SAR Native American Artist Fellow and also received a 2014 NACF Artist Fellowship. Her SAR Learns! project "will create a Navajo–language 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." For her animation, Meow Loses a Button, Melissa also got finishing funds from the Senator John Pinto Native Filmmaker Memorial Fund.

Jonathan Loretto's (Cochiti/Jemez Pueblos) contemporary approach to ceramic sculpture combines unexpected playful elements with cultural heritage. The SAR Learns! project to watch carefully this year explores his community's response to COVID, a multi-generational, community-made three-panel room divider that reflects our shared sense of fragility amid the pandemic.

Vanencio Aragon (Diné) blenda his ancestors' weaving techniques with contemporary design in his textile art. According to his website, "Aragon views Navajo weaving as a way to preserve his cultural identity by promoting the continuation and practice of his ancestor's legacy." For his SAR Learns! project he "will be creating a lending library of weaving materials, equipment, and educational literature for the benefit of his community."

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