August 21, 2011

Day Five in Santa Fe: Symposium and Films

023Can you believe that we have already been here in Santa Fe for five days? It has flown by and looking forward to the first official day of Indian Market.  You can tell it’s getting close because the roads around the plaza are closed and the white tents are going up.

Today had a repeat program featuring the KidFLIX! shorts which had a lot of kids coming with their parents to see these films. Click here to see xxx.


The highlight program today was the second annual State of Native Art Symposium titled, “Collecting and Collectors: Investigating the Other Side of the Equation” where the panel addressed Native artists as art collectors and spoke about the evolving nature of museum collections.  The panel included Andrea Hanley (Navajo) director of the Berlin Gallery at the Heard Museum Shop in Phoenix, Ariz.; John Vanausdall, president/CEO of the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Ind.; Steven Karr, director of the Southwest Museum in Los Angles, Calif.; and Teresa Willis (Yakama/Cuyuse/Nez Perce), NMAI Board of Trustee member and personal collector.


These four panelists spoke before a full room at the Santa Fe Convention Center with welcoming remarks by SWAIA executive director, Bruce Bernstein and moderated by NMAI director, Kevin Gover.  Some the discussion focused on the fact that collecting begins with a dialogue between artists, buyers, collectors and museums. Native art has risen from a local topic to a national and global level. It’s important to reach out to those first time buyers. What can galleries and museums do to expand their collections? It was clear from the panelists that there is not a large budget for acquisitions. Contemporary art collecting is something that is relatively new.  Most collections have been looking for traditional arts.  It’s great to be at events like the Indian Market to be able to start seeing up and coming artists that can fill the gap in collections.


Are there such as thing as a young collector?  According to the panel and the audience, it always starts with one piece, often one that evokes an emotional reaction and/or heart palpitations.  According a collector, Bill Wiggins, he said that his collecting began with a trip to the Five Civilized Tribes in Muscogee, Okla. and his life has never been the same. He went on to collect 1-2 pieces each year and now has his collection at the Sequoyah National Resource Center in Arkansas. Great discussion!

The Native Cinema Showcase was rounded out by the screening of “Pelq’ilc/Coming Home” a film directed by Helen Haig-Brown (Tsilhqot’in). Her film follows two individuals in two communities of the Secwepeme Nation in BC that shares their experience in cultural renewal and recovery. The holistic education process they are engaged in is deeply rooted in language, family and tradition as a way to strengthen them and carry them forward as a people.

Lastly, we had Jason Ryle (Saulteaux), the executive director of imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Ont. This collection of shorts from Indigenous filmmakers living in Canada reflects the diversity of works from the First Nations, Metis and Inuit artists. Some films included: “Tungijuq,” “Inuit High Kick,” “Savage,” and “Burnt.”

Keep an eye out for NMAI staff on the Plaza!

-          Leonda Levchuk (Navajo)

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August 19, 2011

Day Four in Santa Fe

Today was a busy day for NMAI staff working in Santa Fe during our Native Cinema Showcase at the New Mexico History Museum. We had eight films that were a part of the Showcase Shorts program. The diverse selection of works from Indian Country began with “Search for the World’s Best Indian Taco” that has an old man telling his grandson a tall tale about his search for true love, “Indian Elvis” where we meet Michael Loman, a Choctaw Elvis impersonator, fancy dancer and flute player, finally there was “Shimasani” about a young Navajo girl who must decide whether to retain her traditional lifestyle at home with her grandmother or seek a new life “just over the mountain.”

We had two showings of each group of films and after the second screening we had two of the directors join the audience for Q&A.  Steven Judd (Choctaw) the director for “Search for the World’s Best Indian Taco” and Blackhorse Lowe (Navajo), director of “Shimasani.” They talked about the casting process and how it took Judd up to six months to find the right lead in Noah Watts while Lowe went closer to home and used family members and worked closely with his mom who is a Navajo language teacher and made sure that the words were being pronounced correctly.  Click here to see the trailer for SFTWBIT.

The glamorous people came out for the NMAI reception hosted by Jill Udall at the Blue Rain Gallery.  State Representative Ben Ray Luján was in attendance along with actor Wes Studi, Pojoaque Pueblo Governor George Rivera and Laguna Pueblo Governor Richard Luarkie. Here are a couple of shots from the reception.
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Finally, we had the opening night film screening of “On the Ice” which is a suspenseful drama of two young men who go seal hunting but a turn of events has them dealing with more than they can handle. The film was introduced by the writer/director, Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Inupiaq) and the producer, Cara Marcous. The house was completely packed and after the screening MacLean and Marcous returned to answer questions from the audience. It was interesting to learn that that the film took three years to complete and five years if you include the trailer.  They shot it in April and May in Barrow, Alaska. The leads in the movie were not professional actors and the search to find the cast took them all over Alaska and the dad in the film auditioned by a YouTube video that his niece filmed.

Wow, a lot going on and only more to come.  Please come out to see the rest of the films, to see the full schedule go to

See you on the Plaza!!

  • Leonda Levchuk (Navajo)



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The highlight of the program of the second annual State of Native Art Symposium, entitled "Collecting and collectors. Great and interesting subject, the examination of the other side of the equation," was addressed where local artists as a collector.
Good Article

August 18, 2011

Day Three in Santa Fe

Another beautiful day here and another day full of films.  This time the focus was on eight shorts for the program called “KidFLIX!” Several selections from both the U.S. and Canada including, “The Visit” that recounts a Cree family’s strange encounter one night and based on a true story; “My Name is Kobe” where you meet the cat who calls the tribal office home and “Kiss En Concert” an animation that brings you the famous rock band and their fans like you’ve never seen them before—as Styrofoam cups!

In the afternoon, we had a program of three films called “International Indigenous Art on Film.” The first film was “Art + Soul: A Journey into the World of Aboriginal Art—Home and Away.”  This film from Australia was directed by Warwick Thornton (Kaytetye) and asked the question, “What does it mean to be ‘at home’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? Is it where you live, or the ‘country’ you are exiled from?” and provides a rich encounter with Aboriginal history and culture.

Zapotec artist, Alejandro Santiago is the subject of the film, “2501 Migrants: A Journey” a documentary that explores questions of art, artist, and indigenous community in the context of global migration.  He is from Oaxaca and when he returned home it was a virtual ghost town. In response, he creates a monumental art installation comprised of 2,501 life-size ceramic sculptures that pays  homage to each person who left the village in search of a better life.

The last film was “Always Becoming” that follows the process of designing and constructing the outdoor sculpture by Nora Naranjo-Morse (Tewa of Santa Clara Pueblo) that is currently at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.  The film looks at how art communicates across generations and borders, becoming a common language between strangers.

After the screenings there was a panel with directors of the last two films, Yolanda Cruz (Chatino) who directed “2501 Migrants” and Nora Naranjo-Morse, director of “Always Becoming” and moderated by NMAI media initiatives programmer, Melissa Bisagni.  Cruz enjoyed the filming process and had over 100 hours to edit and one of the most important goals was to capture “what the statues wanted to say.”

A question from the audience directed to Naranjo-Morse was if she included anything from Santa Clara Pueblo in her sculpture in D.C. She used the micaceous clay and vega poles from Santa Clara village to be used along with locust poles and red clay from the D.C.-area and a blue color material that came from Minn. Her focus was to create a film that talked about culture, identity and home.

Click here to get the podcasts that Nora mentioned in her remarks.

We are in and around Santa Fe, please say hi to us!

                                                                                                        -          Leonda Levchuk (Navajo)



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August 17, 2011

Day Two in Santa Fe

The National Museum of the American Indian is so excited to be a part of the Native Cinema Showcase this year.  All films programs are being held at the New Mexico History Museum (113 Lincoln Ave.) and they are all FREE!

Reaghan Tarbell (Mohawk) is busy talking to film attendees, introducing programs and making sure that the films are running correctly.  Say hi to her if you see her!  (Photo by Leonda Levchuk)

Tuesday morning brought close to 100 people to see the film, “Let My Whakapapa Speak” which is about how the Maori work to revitalize their language and culture through total immersion. Three decades later they have graduated over 60,000 fluent speakers. 

The very talented Aaron Jones (in the white shirt, 2nd from right) along with some students who helped him write the script. (Photo by Leonda Levchuk)

This was proceeded by a short film titled, “History is Unwritten” and was narrated in Lushootseed, a Coast Salish language, with English subtitles. The 18-year-old director Aaron Jones (Tulalip) was in attendance with some of his collaborators.  The piano music for the film was written and performed by Jones and the film won the Best Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry this year.  Click here to watch it.

In the afternoon, we screened the film “A Good Day to Die,” which examines the life of Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), from boarding school and the military to his transformative experience in Stillwater State Prison. AIM’s game-changing confrontations in Ashington, D.C. and Custer, South Dakota, and the epic standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973 ushered in a new era of Native American pride and self-determination.

A full auditorium was seen for almost every screening.  Most heard about the programs from a local news outlet or word of mouth.  Let your friends know to come over to the New Mexico History Museum to see these great free films. (Photo by Leonda Levchuk)

The final film shown on Tuesday presented the story of life along the Rio Grande Valley and in western New Mexico, where 19 Pueblo communities maintain a traditional way of life within the contemporary world. For over a thousand years, the Pueblo peoples have more than just survived, they have endured. “Ancient Pathways – Modern Leaders” was inspired by leaders of several of New Mexico’s Pueblos. The documentary explores the journey of a Pueblo leader — the selection process identifies leaders for their character, knowledge, and passion for community survival. It depicts the model of leadership that has sustained a culture for more than a thousand years.  Click here to see a short clip.

Finally, here are a couple of shots taken around Santa Fe.

 - Leonda Levchuk (Navajo)

015 Flamenco guitar player at The Shed restaurant.
029 Flowers growing along a wall at the museum.

031 A view of the Plaza on a Tuesday afternoon.
034 Some beautiful architecture in Santa Fe, the El Dorado Hotel.

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NMAI in Santa Fe for Native Cinema Showcase and Indian Market

On the road from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Photo by Leonda Levchuk. 
I-25 North to Santa Fe. Photo by Leonda Levchuk.

NMAI is on the road this week to beautiful Santa Fe, N.M. for the 11th annual Native Cinema Showcase (Aug. 15-21) and Indian Market (Aug. 20-21). We will be live tweeting from events throughout the week and posting photos as well.

To kick things off we attended the Indian Market’s Classification X Winners event held at the New Mexico History Museum (113 Lincoln Ave.) This special program of film screenings featured works of the winners.  Awards were made in the following categories: Narrative Short, Documentary Short, Animation Short and Experimental Short.  These films recognize an artist’s dedication and skill in working with traditional materials and techniques, as well as experimentation with new media and innovative art forms.

The program was introduced by the Director of SWAIA, Bruce Bernstein and moderated by Director of Artist Services at SWAIA, Shawna Shandiin Sunrise (Dine/Kewa).

Shawna Shandiin Sunrise (Dine/Kewa), Director of Artist Services at SWAIA. Photo by Leonda Levchuk.

Some of the films included “Search for the World’s Best Indian Taco” directed by Steven Judd (Choctaw) and “Columbus Day Legacy” directed by Bennie Klain (Navajo). 

Each were enthusiastically applauded by the full house and laughs were heard for the short, “Happy Dayz” that won Honorable Mention by Ricardo Caté (Kewa) about two brothers who schemed to watch their favorite show,  let’s just say that making your siblings nose bleed is harder than it looks. 

886Filmmaker Ricardo Cate (far right) is joined by his cousin next to him and her son who were featured in the film along with another family member on the far left. Photo by Leonda Levchuk. 
Other winners included Velma Kee Craig (Navajo), for her film, “In This Manner, I Am” an animated adaptation of a poem brings to life a street corner encounter between a man and a young Navajo woman. A film by Marcella Ernest (Ojibwe) and finally, Reed Walters (Navajo) for his hilarious film, “An Evening with Reed Walters. Click here to watch the short film.

The 11th Annual Native Cinema Showcase is a collaborative partnership between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and was co-founded in 2001 by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and the Center for Contemporary Arts.

See the full schedule of films at

If you see me out and about Santa Fe this week, let me know you saw this on our social media site and I’ll make sure that we give you a shout out!

                                                                                                    -          Leonda Levchuk (Navajo)

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