New online lecture series spotlights Navajo artists

Presenters will share challenges, successes

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Cultural Arts Program at Diné College will launch the online lecture series, "T'áá awolí bee: Navajo Contemporary Arts Lecture Series," through which Navajo artists will share challenges and successes they have encountered while pursuing art.

The web series was inspired by the in-person lectures the program hosts each spring at the college's campus in Tsaile, Arizona.

Christine Ami, grant manager for the program, said officials preparing for the program's Navajo arts exhibit week when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Since the grant-funded program focuses on fulfilling its objective by presenting lectures and workshops, college officials wanted to remind the public that the college has a bachelor's degree program for the Navajo cultural arts of silversmith and weaving.

"We needed to come up with a way that not only would remind people of the unique program that we have coming out of the college, but also to remind people of the unique ways that we, as Navajo artists, are able to continue to connect with the public," Ami said.

The first lecture will be at 3 p.m. MDT on April 14 on the Navajo Cultural Arts Program Facebook page. A new lecture will air every second and fourth Tuesday of the month and the series will run throughout the summer.

Jared Tso and Darrell Tso are the first artists. Jared teaches Navajo pottery at the college, a skill he learned from Darrell, who is his father.

Other artists scheduled to appear so far are weaver Marlowe Katoney, painter Beverly Blacksheep, graphic designer Corey Begay and photographers Hulleah Tsinhanahjinnie and Rapheal Begay.

The series is not about how to make art but giving viewers insight to the lives of the artists, including the development of work ethics and overcoming struggles to succeed.

"Success isn't defined just in economic wealth," Ami said. "For some of these artists, success means being sober. For some of these artists, it's reconnecting to their cultural roots. For some of these artists, success means that they're making themselves proud and their family proud. We want them to address that component."

With the postponement and cancellation of several major art shows due to the coronavirus, the series is providing a venue for artists to promote their work, she said.

It also provides an alternative for people staying home and seeking "a positive outlet" for the isolation, she added.

Ami said surveys will be available after each lecture and those returned will be entered for a chance to win a piece of work from the featured artist.

The program is also seeking artists to participate because they would like the series to continue beyond the initial run, she said.

For more information, visit the Navajo Cultural Arts Program Facebook page or on the program's website at

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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