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'On the Rise' exhibition organized by Farmington's MIchael Billie

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FARMINGTON — More than two dozen young artists from San Juan County high schools will have their work showcased this weekend during the 98th annual Santa Fe Indian Market, a massive event that attracts international attention.

Eighteen students from Kirtland Central High School and eight from Navajo Preparatory Academy will be part of the "On the Rise — Artists in Early and Mid-Career" exhibition being displayed Aug. 16-18 at the Encaustic Art Institute in Santa Fe.

The exhibition has been hanging since June 7 at the New Mexico Cancer Center in Albuquerque and was funded by a National Endowment of the Arts grant to Capacity Builders Inc., a Farmington-based nonprofit organization that offers programs designed to improve the health and quality of life of Diné and other Native American people.

Exhibition organizer Michael Billie of Farmington arranged for the show to move this weekend to Santa Fe, where he is a board member at the Encaustic Art Institute, to take advantage of the increased exposure that the Indian Market will offer.

"Indian Market is the biggest Native art fair in the world," Billie said. "It's the cream of the crop. All the other Native art fairs copy it, so it's a big deal."

The artists from Kirtland Central include:

  • Chenoah Henry
  • Rasheena Bedah
  • Neveah Nez
  • Erwina Chee
  • Domonique Benally 
  • Xavier LaMotte 
  • Lovelia Murphy 
  • Autumn Miller 
  • Ananda Nockideneh
  • Jerran Begaye 
  • Angelita Lucero 
  • Mya Henderson 
  • Sadie Crawford
  • Caitlin Tache
  • Shauna Clark
  • Shauntel BullBear 
  • Tinelle BullBear
  • Jakari McDonald.

The artists from Navajo Prep include:

  • Rasheed Holyan 
  • Tia Morgan
  • Kariah T. Wilson 
  • Owen Mike Yazzie 
  • Cheyanne Begay 
  • Desiree Begay 
  • Caitlin Sagg
  • Shannus Becenti.

The show also includes work by eight Gallup High School students, two Window Rock High School students and one adult.

Billie said the exhibition originally was intended to focus on adult Native artists from the Four Corners. But when he didn't receive the response he anticipated, Billie began approaching art instructors at high schools across the region, and with their help, he was able to recruit dozens of students to produce work for the show.

The exhibition originally was intended to include 25 works, but it swelled to 36 pieces because of the response of the students. It features mostly acrylic paintings, Billie said, and the subject matter ranges from abstracts and landscapes to animal portraits and politically charged Native commentary.

The grant provided for the showing of the work at the New Mexico Cancer Center. But when Billie approached Encaustic Art Institute founder Doug Mehrens about bringing the exhibition to his gallery for Indian Market weekend, Mehrens enthusiastically agreed, Billie said.

"If it does very well, and it's well attended, I think Doug would want to do it again," Billie said of the possibility of the exhibition becoming an annual attraction at the Encaustic Art Institute. "He loves working with kids."

In the meantime, Billie hopes the students whose work will be featured understand the significance of having their work displayed during the event.

"This is a big deal," he said. "This is something they can put on their résumé."

The Encaustic Art Institute in located at 632 Agua Fria St. in the Railyard district. For more information, call 505-989-3283.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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