Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Gila River reflections December 20, 2011

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,businesss,green,Pinal County,travel,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 12:36 am
Tags:

Gila reflections
By Candace S. Hughes

“Water and birds have played a significant role in the daily life of the people of the Gila River Indian Community. While the Gila River flowed free, these lands were rich and fertile. Channels were hand dug throughout the entire community. Today, electric pumps bring up ground water for the farms. There are several ‘swimming holes’ throughout the community that serve as recreation centers. The irrigation ditches are now concrete.”

 Anne Powers-Pedro (wife of artist Amil Pedro) Statement at entrance to
Memories from the Gila River exhibit

“Chain of Spires Along the Gila River” and “Basin of the Rio Gila,” both painted in 1855

and now hanging in the Phoenix Art Museum, show different perspectives of the

waterway which once flowed continuously from New Mexico through Arizona to the

Colorado River.

With the building of Coolidge Dam on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, water was

diverted to central Arizona farmland. The lush areas with wildlife, Native Americans and

settlers have changed to dry banks devoid of vegetation and birds.

Only occasionally does the river flow and only after heavy rains. Sometimes the water

remains in puddles for awhile, but most of the year the riverbed is dry.

Few are now living who remember the flowing river, however stories remain.

Following a tradition of passing along cultural values, Sacaton Middle School students

and their teacher, Amil Pedro, are displaying art and tools at the Scottsdale Center for the

Arts.

A group of eighth graders carried on the practice of creating headdresses, guided by

Pedro, but they weren’t the large Plains Indians war bonnets seen in movies. These are

smaller creations of turkey feathers in the custom used by Native peoples from the Gila

River area.

The work was done at Sacaton Middle School under a grant from the Center for the Arts

paying Pedro, and is part of a decade-long focus of community outreach activities by the

center.

The introduction to the exhibit hall displaying the art and tools provides the explanation

that the Gila River no longer flows freely and many of the indigenous birds which would

have provided feathers have left the area.

“This river served as a lifeline that linked the Gila River Indian Community, which is

composed of two tribes: the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa). Today

these tribes live together as one community, each maintaining their own distinct

traditions,” the exhibit materials explain to visitors from outside the area.

Pedro was raised in District 7 on the west side of the Gila River Reservation near 83rd

Avenue and West Baseline Road and has never seen a continuously free-flowing Gila,

but has witnessed the Salt River running after rainfall.

“Our cultural tradition is that the Gila was a free flowing river and I’ve heard they had a

lot of wild birds and even geese, golden and bald eagles and blue herons as well as

beaver, turtles and fish,” Pedro said.

The headdresses in the exhibit are the type that would have been made from the feathers

of these wild birds who had nests along the river, he explained.

The seven students whose work is at the center are: Melissa Blackwater, Heidi Howard,

Lorena Clashin, Joshua Mejia, Rainee Juan, Daylene Whittaker and Kelly Morris. All

attended the opening except for one who was performing in a dance group that evening.

“Helping the youth of Sacaton Middle School to hold onto their traditions by learning to

make their own headdresses” is one of the highlights of his career, Pedro said.

Arts are encouraged for all youth to promote self-esteem and to encourage young people

to stay in school and with the artist residency program the additional goal is to help

preserve Native American cultural heritage.

Pedro, who lives in the foothills of Casa Grande Mountain, is of Quechan and

Maricopa/Cahuilla ancestry.

“When they saw the students’ completed project this year the center thought it would be a

good idea to spotlight him and the different things he has taught at the school,” said Anne

Powers-Pedro, Amil Pedro’s wife. The exhibit is dedicated to her for support of his

artwork.

“Honor the Past – Develop the Future” is the theme of his art, which includes decorated

gourds and walking sticks, arrows, a knife and ancient tools including an atlatl.

“They were kind of afraid to put the headdresses together at first, but after they got

started, and saw each was a little different, they were happy about their results. They used

their own technique and it was their own creation,” Pedro explained.

The students met three times weekly for a month, he added. Their work may be shown on

the reservation and at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort when the Center for the Arts

exhibit is taken down.

Three Sacaton Middle School teachers attended the April opening and supported the

project. They are Toni Allen, social studies; Barbara Snyder, reading; and Joe Ellen

Kinnamon, physical education.

“For about 10 years Barbara and I have been the “teacher coordinators on our staff who

have been involved in scheduling Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts events for

our school,” said Allen, of Casa Grande.

The project is starting its 29th year and helped students learn to set a goal, work steadily

towards it and not give up when it got difficult, she added.

“They learned about some of the ways their ancestors appreciated art and brought it into

everyday lives.

“Then, public events such as the opening challenged them to stand up in front of

strangers and speak – totally impromptu and they did rise to the occasion!” she added.

“They got to socialize in a kind of upscale setting,” Allen continued.

The teachers know art education is valuable, she explained.

Pedro’s calling as an artist came early. His first memory of art was drawing on his

bedroom wall, followed by scolding and a reminder not to do this in the future. He then

took his art to the rafters where no one could view the results.

More successful attempts brought rewards of arts supplies and boxes of food when he

entered reservation art shows.

Although while he was at Sherman Institute in California he was told he didn’t have the

talent to attend art school in Santa Fe, he feels this was an event which gave him the

motivation to develop his own style and practice his skills.

He entered South Mountain art shows starting at age 14 and moved to art events in

Scottsdale at the Safari hotel and other locations as well as Cahokia art show in East St.

Louis where he won first prize in 1999 for an atlatl (a spear throwing device).

Pedro worked restoring Arizona state buildings for 20 years before retiring 10 years ago.

He was in the Arizona State Employees Art League and displayed at the state Capitol

during that time. This work has resulted in receiving the State of Arizona’s Governor’s

Award of Excellence on two occasions.

His art now may be seen in Arizona state offices as well as tribal buildings, banks and

credit unions in the United States and Canada. Through a cultural exchange, Pedro’s

work is on permanent display in Russia.

In addition, he has demonstrated flint knapping at the Museum of Man in San Diego, and

has received the Arizona Indian Living treasure Award at the Museum of Northern

Some of his work includes illustrations for a series of Maricopa County Parks and

Recreation Department pamphlets as well as work in a children’s storybook for the

Phoenix Indian Center.

Amil works out of his home studio now and has collectors regularly requesting walking

sticks, which start at about $45 and go up depending on the size. “People bring him

saguaro ribs they’ve collected on the reservation,” Anne Pedro-Powers said.

“People buy one thing and come back and buy another thing from him. He gets to know a

lot of people and does a lot of custom work,” she added. He regularly shows work at the

Huhugam Heritage Center adjacent to Sheraton Wild Horse

Pass Resort, the Gila River Indian Arts and Crafts Center, the Chandler Indian Market,

the Heard Museum Indian Market, and the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological

Park in Phoenix where he teaches a gourd workshop.

And as for the Gila River, it occasionally comes back to life, but has the additional

dangers of groundwater pumping and gravel pits close to its banks. The paintings in the

Western wing of the Phoenix Art Museum remind all of what once was, what we have to

value, what has been lost and how memories can be restored through the work of artists.

30

Cultural Connections at the Middle School level addresses the Cultural Connections program goals of racial, socio-economic, gender and multi-cultural tolerance and understanding through exposing a target group of 7th and 8th graders to arts education they would not otherwise receive, as well as measuring the impact this exposure has on these students academically, emotionally and socially. Theater, world music, movement and visual arts are presented in 5- 7 week residencies during the course of the school year, accompanied by field trips to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to attend school performances.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa and Gila River Indian Communities have been a focus for the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts’ community outreach initiatives for more than a decade. Artists conduct long-term residency programs at Salt River Elementary School, Salt River High School and Sacaton Middle School, teaching photography, storytelling, songwriting, beadwork, pottery, music and dance. Artist-in-residency programs have been highly effective tools for encouraging youth to stay in school and for building self-esteem, while also preserving their cultural heritage. For many of these children, working with artists has offered an important outlet for expressing deep emotions, discovering positive energy within themselves, and developing hope for the future.

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Casa Grande artist brings heritage to students August 15, 2011

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County — Candace Hughes @ 2:59 am
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Casa Grande resident shows art in Scottsdale   By Candace S. Hughes   “Water and birds have played a significant role in the daily life of the people of the Gila River Indian Community. While the Gila River flowed free, these lands were rich and fertile. Channels were hand dug throughout the entire community. Today, electric pumps bring up ground water for the farms. There are several ‘swimming holes’ throughout the community that serve as recreation centers. The irrigation ditches are now concrete.”   n  Anne Powers-Pedro (wife of artist Amil Pedro) Statement at entrance to Memories from the Gila River exhibit   CASA GRANDE – Following a tradition of passing along cultural values, Sacaton Middle School students and their teacher, Amil Pedro, are displaying art and tools at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts through Jan. 1.   A group of eighth graders carried on the tradition of creating headdresses, guided by Pedro, but they weren’t the large Plains Indians war bonnets seen in movies. These are smaller creations of turkey feathers in the custom used by Native peoples from the Gila River area.   The work was done at Sacaton Middle School under a grant from the Center for the Arts paying Pedro, and is part of a decade-long focus of community outreach activities by the center.   The introduction to the exhibit hall displaying the art and tools provides the explanation that the Gila River no longer flows freely and many of the indigenous birds which would have provided feathers have left the area.   “This river served as a lifeline that linked the Gila River Indian Community, which is composed of two tribes: the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa). Today these tribes live together as one community, each maintaining their own distinct traditions,” the exhibit materials explain to visitors from outside the area.   Pedro was raised in District 7 on the west side of the Gila River Reservation near 83rd Avenue and West Baseline Road and has never seen a continuously free-flowing Gila, but has witnessed the Salt River running after rainfall.   “Our cultural tradition is that the Gila was a free flowing river and I’ve heard they had a lot of wild birds and even geese, golden and bald eagles and blue herons as well as beaver, turtles and fish,” Pedro said.   The headdresses in the exhibit are the type that would have been made from the feathers of these wild birds who had nests along the river, he explained.   The seven students whose work is at the center are: Melissa Blackwater, Heidi Howard, Lorena Clashin, Joshua Mejia, Rainee Juan, Daylene Whittaker and Kelly Morris. All attended the opening except for one who was performing in a dance group that evening.   Helping the youth of Sacaton Middle School to hold onto their traditions by learning to make their own headdresses” is one of the highlights of his career, Pedro said.   Arts are encouraged for all youth to promote self-esteem and to encourage young people to stay in school and with the artist residency program the additional goal is to help preserve Native American cultural heritage.   Pedro, who lives in the foothills of Casa Grande Mountain, is of Quechan and Maricopa/Cahuilla ancestry.   “When they saw the students’ completed project this year the center thought it would be a good idea to spotlight him and the different things he has taught at the school,” said Anne Powers-Pedro, Amil Pedro’s wife. The exhibit is dedicated to her for support of his artwork.   “Honor the Past – Develop the Future” is the theme of his art, which includes decorated gourds and walking sticks, arrows, a knife and ancient tools including an atlatl.   “They were kind of afraid to put the headdresses together at first, but after they got started, and saw each was a little different, they were happy about their results. They used their own technique and it was their own creation,” Pedro explained.   The students met three times weekly for a month, he added. Their work may be shown on the reservation and at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort when the Center for the Arts exhibit is taken down.   Three Sacaton Middle School teachers attended the April opening and supported the project. They are Toni Allen, social studies; Barbara Snyder, reading; and Joe Ellen Kinnamon, physical education.   “For about 10 years Barbara and I have been the “teacher coordinators on our staff who have been involved in scheduling Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts events for our school,” said Allen, of Casa Grande.   The project is starting its 29th year and helped students learn to set a goal, work steadily towards it and not give up when it got difficult, she added.   “They learned about some of the ways their ancestors appreciated art and brought it into everyday lives.   “Then, public events such as the opening challenged them to stand up in front of strangers and speak – totally impromptu and they did rise to the occasion!” she added.   “They got to socialize in a kind of upscale setting,” Allen continued.   The teachers know art education is valuable, she explained.   Pedro’s calling as an artist came early. His first memory of art was drawing on his bedroom wall, followed by scolding and a reminder not to do this in the future. He then took his art to the rafters where no one could view the results.   More successful attempts brought rewards of arts supplies and boxes of food when he entered reservation art shows.   Although while he was at Sherman Institute in California he was told he didn’t have the talent to attend art school in Santa Fe, he feels this was an event which gave him the motivation to develop his own style and practice his skills.   He entered South Mountain art shows starting at age 14 and moved to art events in Scottsdale at the Safari hotel and other locations as well as Cahokia art show in East St. Louis where he won first prize in 1999 for an atlatl (a spear throwing device).   Pedro worked restoring Arizona state buildings for 20 years before retiring 10 years ago. He was in the Arizona State Employees Art League and displayed at the state Capitol during that time. This work has resulted in receiving the State of Arizona’s Governor’s Award of Excellence on two occasions.   His art now may be seen in Arizona state offices as well as tribal buildings, banks and credit unions in the United States and Canada. Through a cultural exchange, Pedro’s work is on permanent display in Russia.   In addition, he has demonstrated flint knapping at the Museum of Man in San Diego, and has received the Arizona Indian Living treasure Award at the Museum of Northern Arizona.   Some of his work includes illustrations for a series of Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department pamphlets as well as work in a children’s storybook for the Phoenix Indian Center.   Amil works out of his home studio now and has collectors regularly requesting walking sticks, which start at about $45 and go up depending on the size. “People bring him saguaro ribs they’ve collected on the reservation,” Anne Pedro-Powers said.   “People buy one thing and come back and buy another thing from him. He gets to know a lot of people and does a lot of custom work,” she added.                   Places to see Amil Pedro’s art   Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd, Chandler.  – Pedro regularly gives art tours and demonstrations at the resort where he has created much of the art. Telephone: 602-225-0100 Web site: wildhorsepassresort.com.   The hotel’s collection includes 40 acrylic, ink and watercolor paintings and 100 hand-painted gourds and feathers. He also designed a blanket throw titled Gila River Dreams used in the resort’s guest rooms. The throw is available for sale in the resort’s gift shop.   Huhugam Heritage Center, 4759 N. Maricopa Road adjacent to Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5 adults, $3 seniors, $2 children 6-12. Telephone: 520-796-3500 Web site: www.huhugam.com   Gila River Indian Arts and Crafts Center. Take exit 175 off 1-10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande. Telephone: 480-963-3981.     Heard Museum Indian Market, 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.. Telephone: 602-252-8848 Web site: http://www.heard.org.  

 

Prescott, Az. museums April 28, 2011

Filed under: green — Candace Hughes @ 4:23 pm
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Candace S. Hughes
2051 S. Mountain View Road
Apache Junction, AZ. 85219
480-288-1993
schu106578@aol.com

Apply for Passport to Culture in Prescott, Ariz.

by Candace S. Hughes

Docent Evelyn Groff shows her grandchildren around the exhibit at the Phippen Art Museum seven miles north of Prescott on Highway 89A, being careful to show them a trophy rodeo saddle they can touch. “They love the bronzes,” she says proudly. “They look so real,” says 7-year-old Wesley of Phoenix. “They’re like the cowboys in the rodeo,” he exclaims.

Docent Ray Henning’s eyes light up as he excitedly demonstrates leather tool work outside the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott. “I’ve been doing this for years as a hobby,” he says, and now the retiree can devote all his time to making bridles and to working in a period costume on the grounds of the museum two blocks from the Courthouse Square. Darilee Meeks, a visitor from Paradise Valley, stops to discuss her love for a treasured leather box she has owned for many years. The handcrafted items entice her to stay awhile.

Betty Guyer, a Smoki Museum docent, proudly explains that she was first trained as a docent at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, but now specializes in leading school groups through the exhibits in the Prescott museum focusing on Native American culture in Yavapai County. She ensures that a Native American flute sold in the gift shop is sold with instructions and a diagram explaining the designs on the pottery.

All three show visitors slices of Arizona history through the filter of their experiences and with a knowledge of how to present other cultures and times in an engaging manner.

Groff is stopping at the Phippen Museum five days before she guides a group of 30 women through an exhibit, but also uses her expertise to bring the art alive for her grandsons. Holding their hands, she discusses “Off My Back,” an oil on canvas by Charly Schridde.

She carefully points out the bull’s wild eye, a feature that keeps the painting interesting in addition to the movement the artist depicts. “It shows the action of being a cowboy,” says the grandma, who has taken her grandsons to Prescott’s rodeo.

For those interested in other aspects of Western art, the museum includes examples of Western American realism in sculpture and on canvas. Eight panels showing the evolution of the Prescott area in oil on board by Paul Coze feature frames with a mosaic of local stones.

Artifacts and history also are shown such as Ben Johnson’s 1971 Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance in “The Last Picture Show” and a letter to Johnson from Joe Beeler, a member of the Cowboy Artists of America.

Visitors to what is billed as “the most beautiful museum location in Arizona” find a fine art museum explaining the art of George Phippen, an artist and sculptor as well as a co-founder of the Cowboy Artists of America. A replica of his studio near the museum entrance shows his technique of sketching and then tracing onto canvas. Young artists are invited to sketch and enter a contest to have their art framed.

Since opening in 1984 in the Granite Dells area north of Prescott, children and adults continue to grasp the concept of the importance of highlighting the glare in a bull’s eye or the action of a rodeo cowboy in art that is compelling and inviting. Conversations with artists and video producers as well as activities in a Family Discovery Center draw those of all ages and interests to the museum.

The hands-on center for children encourages kids to write letters to friends describing the exhibit, and provides handouts on local ranch brands and “Cowboys: Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow.” Explaining that Prescott had the first cowboy competition in the world on July 4, 1888, the exhibit shows children another part of Arizona history.

The joys and economic and environmental pressures of ranching life can easily be seen in art and on the screen with everyday activities shown in their unglorified reality. “Cowgirl Riding on the Range” by Anne Coe of Apache Junction, provides some of the variety of experiences of women and men, girls and boys who are raised on and work on ranches.

As the “Ranch Album Video” attests, there’s “a lot of space out here” and the Phippen Museum ensures a sensitive portrayal of everything from windmills to herds at sunset.

Although the collection of buildings known as the Sharlot Hall Museum offers many looks at frontier life, the best way to experience the pioneer days may be to simply sit on the museum grounds after hours on a weeknight. While the entertaining docents are gone, travelers and locals gather to sketch, write, read, talk, photograph, sprawl in the grass, play an instrument, smell the roses and herbs, or watch a play in the amphitheater.

Named for a woman wishing to preserve Arizona history, a visit during the quiet hours will allow time to find metates built into a wall around the governor’s mansion , view native plants such as the Apache plume, and photograph hollyhocks outside a replica of a one-room schoolhouse.

Hall, the first woman to hold salaried office in Arizona territory, was territorial historian from 1909-1912, and used her position to collect pioneer material and visit prehistoric ruins and Indian reservations.

The museum’s grounds include a transportation building with a vehicle including Hall’s personal 1927 Star automobile, a stagecoach and a high-wheeled bicycle. In addition, there is the Fremont House, built in 1875, and the home of the fifth territorial governor; and the Bashford House, built in 1877 by William Bashford, a merchant. Fort Misery, the oldest log building associated with the territory, is on the site, as well as the museum center.

All passports to Prescott museums must receive a stamp from the Smoki Museum, and the best way to explore the area is to walk from the Courthouse Square up the Sheldon Street hill to Arizona Avenue. A trolley tour also will provide a narrated experience and will stop and pick up at the site.

Constructed of native stone and wood after the design of an artist who lived with Hopis at Walpi, the Smoki (pronounced with a long I) Museum of American Indian Art and Culture started in 1935 and continues to call itself “the only Native American Museum in Prescott.” The museum benefited from the Civilian Works Administration and the Smoki People, a group of businessmen who gathered to preserve Native American culture.

Celebrating 70 years of operation, the museum still shows the influence of Kate Cory. A Prescott resident after living at the pueblo in northern Arizona, her large paintings of Native American life continue to provide context for the exhibits. Her work “Return of the Kachinas” depicts the spiritual nature of Native Americans and that belief is found throughout the museum in the large collection of kachinas ranging from the cactus wren or Turposkwa to the Corn Maiden kachina.

A hands-on area for children includes a beading loom and materials to create stick figures. In addition, children and adults may listen to audiotapes from an oral history project in which fifth graders ask open-ended questions of Yavapai Tribal elders to elicit information about their ancestors and their culture.

“They are getting an experience of a different culture and children don’t often get exposed to that,” says Guyer, who has been a Smoki docent for more than four years. “The elders also needed to have their information put down,” she says of the project through Taylor Hicks Elementary School.

The preservation of Native American culture at the museum includes the possession of an animal stick figure made 3,000-4,000 years ago and stone carvings of bighorn sheep’s heads found during excavations at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds.

Also proudly discussing the Smoki exhibits every Friday is Eleanor Pugh, a Prescott docent, who interprets the “Puzzle of Ancient Prescott: Pieces from Coyote Ruin” for visitors. “I’ve been interested in Native American culture since moving to the Southwest in 1948 and this is the only logical place to volunteer,” says the retiree.

The carefully planned show includes a finely carved frog made from a Glycymeris shell. Many artifacts in the exhibit show the entire shell or the natural material used for the item and then the carved puzzle piece carrying out the theme.

The excavations from Coyote Ruin on a private ranch north of Prescott show life prior to abandonment of the area during the 14th century. With the work done by the Yavapai Chapter of the Arizona Archaeological Society over a five-year period in the late 1990s, more of the puzzle is being put together, but some has been lost due to pothunting.

A terraced garden plot with irrigation, an ancient hearth, petroglyphs in the shape of a grid, and granite boulders worn smooth from the grinding of corn, nuts, and seeds are among some of the evidence available in a video, photographs and artifacts on display.

Built around an outcropping of bedrock, one of the most interesting pieces of the puzzle is a room whose door was blocked by the inhabitants, but when “unlocked” by excavators yielded more treasures than the rest of the ruin combined. Found there were ceramics and jewelry, sherds of pottery indented with human fingernails, human and animal figurines, handles or scoops, burned corncobs, walnuts and pinon nuts and a whistle.