Artist News & Press
August 27, 2008
Contact: Scott Neuman
Day Phone: 928-679-7463
For Immediate Release:
Helping Native American Artisans to Market and Sell Art and Craft
Flagstaff Ariz., Aug. 27, 2008 – The Coconino County Community Services Department is the coordinating agency for the Northern Arizona Native American Culture Trail (NANACT) project, helping Native artisans to market and sell their arts and crafts. NANACT aims to bridge the gulf between visiting tourists and Native American culture.
Each year, the Grand Canyon attracts 4.4 million visitors, but few tourists venture onto tribal lands, so Native people see little of the associated $687 million regional tourism benefit. NANACT will connect this potential market with Native artisans and culture-based businesses to increase cultural exchange and build the Native economy.
Understanding and appreciation of Native life ways and arts will be facilitated by “trails” bringing visitors to Northern Arizona Native artisans. Tourists will be enticed to go beyond the usual regional attractions and exhilarating scenic beauty to also experience the timeless, vibrant variety of Northern Arizona Native cultures.
Most tourists to rural tribal lands are Arizona residents, first visiting at the urging of family or friends. But surveys show they return an average of 12 times. Word of mouth advertising is good, but limited. NANACT will provide better exposure via the Internet and maps so many more will want to come. And besides Arizonans, NANACT will market to the 21 million domestic visitors from other States and the 2 million international visitors coming annually to Arizona.
As the NANACT marketing network grows it will become increasingly noticeable to Grand Canyon visitors, who up to now have been an untapped market. Native women and men can participate, and it cost nothing to apply. A cost may be charged for a few business trainings, but fees will be waived in whole or part for the next 60 women to sign up. This subsidy is being provided by the U.S. Dept. of Labor Women’s Bureau.
If you would like a FREE application to participate in NANACT, or if you have questions, please contact Scott Neuman, Program Coordinator, Coconino County Community Services Department, at 928-679-7463; or via email.
[Note: All applications should be completed and returned to Scott Neuman, CCCSD, 2625 N. King St, Flagstaff, AZ 86004, by Friday, Sept. 19th.]
May, 9 2008
Proposed Native Artisan Trail seeks to bring unique experience to northern Arizona visitors
The Navajo Hopi Observer
"We are educating Native Americans not to be a part of the problem. We help protect arts and crafts and give artists a voice against the stealing of designs or rip-off traders."
- Tony Eriacho (Zuni Pueblo)
Council for Indigenous Arts and Culture
FLAGSTAFF - "All I bring is a pot - a place to meet. I hope we can make a wonderful feast for northern Arizona."
Verna Fischer is the director of the Community Services Department of Coconino County. Fischer shared memories of her childhood with about 20 Native American artisans, community developers, service providers and others interested in the development of a Native American Arts Trail similar to trails in New Mexico and the Appalachian area.
Specifically, she talked about how the character of her parents molded her. From her mother she learned to run a comfortable home where people feel welcome and well fed. From her father she gained the ethic of hard work. She brought to the table her interest in "community programs where people are without the funds to make a living" - and a large pot.
The pot was a visual aid as Fischer went on to share her family's version of the story of stone soup. In a nutshell, a hungry traveler comes to a village and goes house to house asking for food - a crust of bread, a slice of apple or a carrot - but no one has food to share. So the stranger borrows a pot and produces a "magical stone." As the villagers watch, he makes his favorite stone soup.
"Oh this is so delicious," the stranger says, as he tastes his soup. "Oh, but it would be so much better if it had a carrot." Of course someone produces a carrot, and then another brings an onion - and so on until everyone shares a delicious stew.
Scott Neuman, the Partnership Development Program Coordinator for the county's Community Service Department, described the Craft Heritage Trails Network efforts in Appalachia. Residents of this economically depressed region had little hope of attracting the big business necessary to provide jobs. In the mid-1990s, people began to take a new look at economic development, he said.
"They asked themselves, 'What does Appalachia have that no one else has?'" Neuman said. "The answer was artisans, basket makers, people who made wildflower arrangements and more. They asked themselves, 'Could we come together and work together?' Some said that artists are free spirits and we don't want to commit.
But they were asked what if they were able to stay home in their studios more rather than be out trying to sell their work, being able to produce more and make more money?"
The network of Appalachian artists has grown to more than 2,300 people, Neuman said. "The model for the Native Artisans Trails Network idea was developed and implemented in western North Carolina by HandMade in America," Neuman explained. "In 1997, HandMade's director, Becky Anderson, spearheaded formation of a place-based Craft Heritage Trail Network throughout Appalachia. After the first three years, artisan income on average was up 23 percent for artisans based in studios, and up 28 percent for those based in galleries. Now, over 26 percent of tourists to the region purchase arts and crafts, with more than 11 percent spending $500 or more.
"Because of the Craft Heritage Trails Network's success, similar trails networks have been established in at least 13 other states," Neuman continued.
There were other spin-off benefits as well.
"People were more excited about living in Appalachia," Neuman explained. "Suddenly the youth, who used to grow up and move away, were saying that they wanted to stay."
The idea of a Native artisans' trail has been kicked around for the past couple of years, Neuman said, but in the last six months, interest has peaked. Suddenly people were saying, "We'll put a little in the pot if someone else will."
Fischer invited each participant to share why they had chosen to come to the meeting.
Ben Jones, who works with the Grand Canyon Trust, explained that his organization is involved in the development of tourism, and encouraging networking with the Hopi and Navajo tribes.
"I am serving as a conduit to other contacts," Jones said, and indeed, as others introduced themselves, many admitted that Jones had invited them to the meeting.
Ron Cornish heads Northern Arizona University's Center for Native American Economic Development.
"Native Americans are a big part of Arizona's tourism," Cornish said. "We are part of about three fourths of the ideas floating around out there."
Gwen Cody, who works with Cornish, said that she also had an interest in the project.
"It's a great idea here in northern Arizona. I'd like to see it come alive."
Steve Darden, who headed the Flagstaff Indian Center before it became Native Americans for Community Action (NACA), remembered the day a young artisan came in and asked if he could get help in developing marketing for his work. The young man shared the difficulties he faced in trying to sell his artwork at various popular tourist locations and being chased off.
"I have to give credit where credit is due," Darden said. "A young Hopi woman, Barbara Poley, was working with us, and she helped facilitate one of the most successful arts and crafts sales ventures at the Oak Creek overlook. I am grateful to Dorothy and Rose for their work in continuing and developing the overlook.
"I want to sit at the table to anything that brings opportunity to Native Americans as long as we aren't asked to prostitute our culture," Darden said.
Dorothy Denetsosie Gishie, coordinator of economic development at NACA, was also enthusiastic about the proposed artisan trail.
"I coordinate 270 arts and crafts vendors at the overlook. I am always looking for a new venue," Gishie said. "With the price of gas going up, this is a scary story for many of my vendors. People are worried about how they are going to feed their family."
Gishie said that she had accepted an invitation from Becky Anderson of HandMade in America to visit the Appalachian trail, and found it very exciting.
"People were able to make a living," Gishie said. "I know the program is very successful, and I am interested in having one here."
Rose Tohe, also with NACA, works with the Workforce Investment Project.
"I work with a population in need of income, who have a very limited resume," Tohe said. "Many have a background in arts and crafts. I want to be able to have something open for people."
Before her work with the Grand Canyon Trust and NAU, Claudia Jackson was an artisan. As a student in Tucson, she became involved in locating quality items for faculty members at the university.
"I was amazed to see the number of faculty who were interested in weaving," Jackson said. "They wanted to know who the artists were, and didn't want to go to a gallery to buy items."
A weaver since the age of 14, Jackson grew up in Indian Wells.
"Artists there are not as showcased as artists in other areas," Jackson said. "Last summer I helped my mom - she runs a food stand there. It was interesting to see how many people stopped to ask for directions on how to get to Canyon de Chelly. My mom and I commented on it - people were driving right through our area and all they talked about was Canyon de Chelly. How could we get people to stop in our community?"
Kelly Jenkins-Pultz, program analyst for the Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor (WB/USDL), said that the bureau's role in the project is to be an early investor.
"We are bringing a little funding to get this started," Jenkins-Pultz explained. "Our interest is helping native women get on-line marketing through the creation of a virtual trail.
Her colleague, Jenny Erwin, the regional administrator for WB/USDL, said that her group had been involved in helping working women in transition - some had been in prison, others had been affected by Hurricane Katrina.
"You can learn about money, but that doesn't help if you don't have any," Erwin said.
Ann Doyle of the Museum of Northern Arizona coordinates the Heritage Program there. Doyle believed that the museum could play an active role in the development of the project.
Verginia Yazzie, who has worked in community tourism, actually obtained a copy of "The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina" long before attending the meeting.
"I thought, wow, what a way to bring roadside vendors to a new level," Yazzie said.
Belma Berni Navakuku, Hopi Tourism Planner, described the unique features of Hopi.
"We wear multiple hats," Navakuku said. "Women are able to multitask."
She fits her own description - while working for the Office of Tourism for the tribe, she produced an artists' directory as well as a guide and went on to work as a consultant. She pointed out the hesitancy she found when trying to list artists and show pictures of their work.
"We did have some issues," Navakuku explained. "Many involved the protection of cultural and property rights. Artists were concerned about their designs being reproduced by others across the world and this continues to be a concern.
"Our village (Walpi) is very traditional, and continues to be governed traditionally. Any enterprise must be blessed by the traditional leadership," Navakuku said. "We can be proactive. A strong educational component will be necessary to achieve buy-in to this project. I believe it is viable."
Karen Berggren, park manager at Homolovi State Park, described the partnership between the park and the Hopi Tribe, and the effort to provide a venue for Hopi artists.
"We try to buy throughout the year," Berggren said. "People make good money through May, June and July, but the rest of the year is hard.
"We also provide books that are accurate, and encourage other museum shops across the country to carry quality books, arts and crafts."
Berggren, who is from Appalachia herself, pointed out a pewter shop that she herself worked at that is listed in the "The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina."
Tony Eriacho from the Zuni Pueblo has also been involved in the promotion of artists. His organization, Council for Indigenous Arts and Culture, is involved in the support of authentic Indian arts, crafts, customs, and culture.
"We are educating Native Americans not to be a part of the problem," Eriacho said. "We help protect arts and crafts and give artists a voice against the stealing of designs or rip-off traders."
"The Arizona State Parks assist Hopi in establishing tourism in a proper way," Berggren said. "We help educate people before going north - we help Hopi with the training of others who attended were Somana Yaiva (Hopi quilter from the village of Hotevilla), Walter Phelps (who came as the "eyes and ears" for Representative Rick Renzi), Louise Benally (Big Mountain) Laura Monty (Christianson Foundation) and Mae Franklin (Cameron community).
Neuman ended the meeting by observing that it is very likely that the idea for a Native Artisans trail is an idea whose time has come, and that the immediate focus was assisting at least 60 women to demonstrate an increase in income. Though the project is centered in Coconino County, native women in Apache and Navajo counties are not excluded for the training and inclusion in a virtual trail.
For more information on the project, or to be included in the working group meetings, contact Scott Neuman at (928) 679-7463.