Contemporary Native Arts Festival Coming to Prescott

by Cindy Gresser, Executive Director, The Smoki Museum of American Indian Art & Culture

Mission, goals, focus — these are all words nonprofit institutions throw around. How are you serving your mission? Will your activities help reach your goals? Are you as an institution keeping focus on your mission and goals? And things change, people come and go. Funding levels change and grants are never a certain thing.

Then there is your community. Does it know and understand what you are doing? Are you also serving its needs? 

Lots of questions, and sometimes answers are difficult to determine. The staff of The Smoki Museum examined all of these questions and determined our institution needed a “signature event” that embraced our mission and goals, and one that could effectively communicate our goals. We turned to our community and asked what it would like to see. Once we knew the answer, we turned to our friends to help us accomplish our objective.

The Smoki Museum is pleased to announce the Contemporary Native Arts Festival coming to Arizona Avenue on April 13 and 14. This event features the best of contemporary Native art, and not just jewelry, pottery and baskets. Fine art painters, comic book artists, tattoo artists, skateboard artists, spoken-word performers, music and dance, a fashion show by four topnotch Native designers, and a Two-Spirit Pageant will be part of this amazing event.

We are SUPA pleased to announce that the one and only Supaman, aka Christian Parrish Takes The Gun will be our headlining performer. Supaman is a member of the Apsaalooke Nation and makes his homes on the Crow Reservation in Montana. He is a Powwow Fancy Dancer, hip-hop artist and has performed nationwide and on MTV advocating for better lifestyles and more meaning in life.

Our logo was created by Landis Bahe, a well-known and respected fine art painter and tattoo artist at Tat-Fu in Flagstaff. Landis will be showing paintings as well as creating tattoos in our Pueblo Building. (Ask to see my left shoulder, and perhaps you can get an awesome tattoo like mine).

Wendell Sakiestewa, son of the late Hopi artist Michael Kabotie, is producing our fashion show and will be bringing three other Native designers to showcase their designs. Sakiestewa began his career as an electronics engineer working for firms like General Electric and Hamilton Sundstrand aviation. In his spare time, he created his own clothes, remembering the skills his grandmother taught him. Eventually, through a community college fashion design program, he started creating his own line of clothing. This led him to Los Angeles where he graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in 1996. He has created designs for Madonna, Snoop Dogg, Smokey Robinson, and many others. Once he reconnected with his father, Michael, the Hopi inspired HopiWenSaks line was born in 2007. He is now working on several other innovative products, including protective underwear for athletes.

Former Miss International Two-Spirit Timothy “Twix” Ward is producing our Two-Spirit Pageant, and two new crowns, Miss Southwest Two-Spirit and Mr. Southwest Two-Spirit will be presented on Sunday at the festival. Two-Spirit people are those who possess both male and female within them and identify their sexuality in a different way than those in the Western world. Talent, traditional wear, and performance are all part of this pageant.

Our partner in this event is the Granite Mountain Gourd Society, which will be hosting a Powwow on Ken Lindley Field. Imagine, a Powwow right on Gurley Street! Perhaps our headliner Supaman will even make an appearance there. As always, Powwow dancers from across the nation will come to celebrate the gathering we now call Powwow. Powwow highlights the vitality, growth and commitment to keeping old ways alive in our Native people today.

And of course, there will be food. Fry bread and hopefully a host of other offerings from Native culture will be available to enjoy. We hope you will join us at this inaugural event for The Smoki Museum. The Contemporary Native Arts Festival promises to fill two days with all the things Native people care about and hope to share with you.

The event runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., April 13 to 14, on Arizona Avenue. Visit smokimuseum.org for complete details.