Master Artist Shonto Begay: Just One Of Many Famous Artists at
Southwest Indian Art Fair
Date of Release: February
(University of Arizona, Tucson) A great thing about Arizona State Museum's
Southwest Indian Art Fair is the fact that, each year, it brings more
and more famous artists to Tucson. This year nearly 200 are expected.
It's a virtual who's who of SW Indian artists.
Big name contemporary artists don't come any more famous -- or down to
earth -- than Shonto Begay. Navajo painter, illustrator and writer, Shonto
is as real as they come.
Shonto doesn't enter juried competitions, an expected thing in the native
art world. "What do I have to prove?" he asks quietly and sincerely.
"Art isn't about competition to me, it's about complementing our
lives. My award or reward is inspiring the creativity in people, especially
kids because so much of their innate creativity is schooled out of them."
Children and creative inspiration are recurring themes in Shonto's conversations.
"I try to encourage kids to follow their dreams and discover the
art world that lies within, to make their lives more creative. They don't
have to become artists necessarily, just learn to be creative in their
everyday lives, like in resolving conflict. Couldn't we all use a little
more creativity in conflict resolution right now?" he asks, obviously
thinking about the current threat of war. Through his work with the Grand
Canyon Youth group in northern Arizona, Shonto is doing his part to ensure
a more creative future for Navajo kids. "It's a two-way exchange,"
he is quick to point out. "They inspire me as much as I hope I do
Shonto's current list of accomplishments include a mural for the lobby
of the new Westin resort in Scottsdale. One of his large pieces also hangs
in the office of New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson. The governor himself
called to make the request! "And I just finished illustrating a children's
book about a Navajo girl called Alice Yazzi's Year (Tricycle Press, Berkelely
CA). That's pretty good, don't you think?"
Shonto spends most of his time at his Flagstaff gallery, Shonto/RMRunning
Gallery, with his wife Raechel, at which he, again, promotes the creativity
of his friends and colleagues in the community. "Today you would
see many different crafts in the gallery -- colorful pins and ornaments
and even photographs. It's a colorful, living space with red carpet and
multi colored walls. Color was never very important to me, but my wife
has brought color into my life."
The busy artist has also just completed Arizona State Museum's "pony"
-- as part of the city-wide fund-raising project Ponies del Pueblo. Shonto's
pony and that of Randy Keedah's (Navajo) for the Marana Arts Council will
be on display at the art fair (Images of Shonto working on the Pony are
See Shonto in action in the Demonstration Tent.
You will also find Master Weaver Barbara Teller Ornelas (Navajo) and
several members of her family weaving beautiful tapestries right before
Enjoy pottery demonstrations by Hopi artist White Swann and her 2 daughters
Snow and Popovi; traditional Navajo sand painting demos by Herbert Ben,
Tohono O'odham basket weaving, and watch Mary Lou Kokaly from Isleta/San
Juan Pueblo create her storyteller dolls.
Musical performers scheduled are: singer Delphine Tsinajinnie (Navajo),
flutists Robert "Tree" Cody (Salt River Pima-Maricopa) and Darrell
Dance performances by Yaqui, Tohono O'odham and Hopi youth groups.