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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cultural celebration, education at art fair

    The Arizona State Museum is holding its 22nd annual Southwest Indian Art Fair Saturday and Sunday on the museum’s front lawn to celebrate the culture and craftsmanship of Indian artwork of all tribes and mediums.

    “SWIAF is the museum’s largest cultural celebration and its signature educational event,” said Darlene Lizarraga, the director of marketing at the Arizona State Museum. “All our programs have the same purpose: to bring people together for cross-cultural education.”

    The Arizona State Museum is dedicated to the protection of indigenous cultures in the region and across the country and strives to educate visitors about these groups’ heritages.

    Through the sharing and appreciation of Indian art at the SWIAF, guests will be able to experience some of the native tradition and develop a better understanding of these native groups. Each artist featured at the fair comes from a native group with distinct values, practices and beliefs, and they are able to tell their stories to fair attendees through their artwork.

    At this year’s fair, there will be over 200 native artists displaying their handmade artwork of all kinds, including pottery, jewelry, sculpture, baskets, carvings, dolls and textiles. The tribal representation amongst the artists is just as diverse as the various art forms they are displaying: the Acoma, Hopi, Navajo, Tohono O’Odham and Zuni tribes are just a handful of those that will be present amongst the artists.

    Besides selling their work, many of the native artists will also hold demonstrations at the fair and will be available to discuss their processes and answer questions that visitors may have about their work and their traditions. Similar to how every artist has his or her own story, each piece has a background as well.

    The SWIAF has a legacy of its own stretching back to 1993, when the museum’s collections division hosted a pottery fair for the Arizona State Museum. Many native artists were featured in the fair, and it was well received by the community, so the museum continued hosting the annual event, which evolved into SWIAF.

    Over the years, the fair has grown in artist and attendee numbers, as well as in diversity of art styles and native groups, to create the event it is today. This year’s fair includes live music and dance performances, fashion shows and an auction.

    The museum also chooses one artist each year to be the featured artist of the festival, and this year, Barbara Teller-Ornelas is that person. Teller-Ornelas comes from a long line of Diné weavers and has been weaving since she was just 4 years old.

    “I learned the basics of weaving from my mother,” Teller-Ornelas said in an interview with the Arizona State Museum. “My grandmothers taught me the legends of weaving, and my older sister taught me design.”

    Over the years, Teller-Ornelas said she has perfected her craft and received recognition for much of her work, including having her pieces featured in museums across the world and winning a host of awards at various art shows. Along with her family, she will be selling some of her work, demonstrating her craft and chatting with visitors at the Featured Artist Tent at the fair.

    The SWIAF entrance fee is $10 for adults and free for children and UA students with a CatCard, which includes admission to the museum for the day. The fair is meant for long-time collectors and curious passersby alike. With all of the different artists, styles and cultures, every visitor can find something they enjoy, which is exactly what the Arizona State Museum staff is hoping for.

    “We want people to walk away enriched by the barriers that are broken down by conversation, art, music and food,” Lizarraga said.


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