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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tradition, culture present at Southwest Indian Art Fair

    Courtesy of Canyon Records The Arizona State Museum will bring the Southwest Indian Art Fair to the UA campus this weekend. The art fair will feature different performances, art pieces, and over 200 Native artists who will talk about their work.

    When Barbara Ornelas weaves, she knows the meaning of balance.

    “In our [Navajo] way, we believe there’s good sides and bad sides, light sides and dark sides,” said Ornelas, a 59-year-old Tucson local. “When I get to my weaving, it gives me peace.”
    As a member of the fifth generation in her family to weave, she finds her past, present and future in the wool threads she intertwines to create the patterns in her tapestries. It’s a gift she values.

    “I believe my family has been blessed,” she said. “The weaving gods gave us a gift, and we’re going to pass it forward.”

    Ornelas is a weaver, and she and her family create Navajo tapestries — not rugs — in the Two Gray Hills style, where her family is from. They represent just one family of artists who will be selling and demonstrating at the 21st annual Southwest Indian Art Fair, slated for Saturday and Sunday at the Arizona State Museum.

    About 200 artists are coming to sell their wares, and that’s no small thing, Lizarraga said, because what they offer is “their most recent expression of their culture.”

    “If I take that into my home, I get to shake the hand that created that item,” she said. Among the items for sale will be Acoma pottery, Apache sculpture, Hopi Katsina dolls and pottery, Navajo textiles, Tohono O’odham baskets, Yaqui carvings and Zuni fetishes and jewelry.

    Besides the crafts that will be for sale, there will also be traditional music, dance performances and foods.

    Ornelas works with many members of her extended family, including her sister, Lynda Pete, who lives in Denver but often travels with her sister to teach weaving. As another fifth-generation weaver, Pete said she loves to discuss her work with anyone who has questions.

    “We consider ourselves ambassadors, and we answer all questions,” Pete said.

    To that end, the Ornelas family will be set up in the weaving tent, where they will demonstrate how to transform raw wool into a fine tapestry with other family members, including sixth-generation weaver Michael Ornelas and seventh-generation weaver Roxanne Lee.

    Another member of the family, Terry Lee, will be showing weaving tools, both decorative and functional. Ornelas said there will be activities for kids and plenty of people will be around to answer any question visitors might have.

    This year’s featured artist is Jody Folwell, a well-known avant garde clay artist of the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. She will both discuss and sell her work at the fair.

    A third component of this year’s festival is the Friends of Hubbell Trading Post’s benefit rug auction, which will feature the weavings of many artists. Proceeds go to scholarship funds for Navajo and Hopi college students. Viewing is from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday and bidding begins at noon in the Center for English as a Second Language auditorium. Lizarraga said the fair is more than just a craft sale — this celebration is the largest public event the museum hosts that represents its mission.

    “We want to promote the understanding and appreciation and respect of the peoples and cultures of the region,” Lizarraga said.

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