COVID-19 Is Destroying the Livelihoods of Native Artists

“The coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of Native American artists. But they are responding with a creative resolve born from centuries of adversity.” P. Leigh, The New York Times

Our great-grand folks went through the Great Depression, the artist Marvin Martinez says. Now I feel like I’m reliving my ancestors. Credit-Ramsay de Give for The New York Times

Mr. Martinez creates pottery blackened by blue smoke that recalls the legacy of his great-grandmother, Maria Martinez. Credit- Ramsay de Give for The New York Times

 

Excerpt: On Tribal Lands, a Time to Make Art for Solace and Survival — By Patricia Leigh, The New York Times

“For over 30 years, Marvin and Frances Martinez have risen with the sun to drive from their home at the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico to the centuries-old Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.

They arrive early to snag a prime spot beneath the rough-hewed wooden beams of the portal, a colonnade where they sell pottery blackened by blue smoke that recalls the legacy of Maria Martinez, the grande dame of Native American pottery and Mr. Martinez’s great-grandmother.

Native American vendors under the portal of the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, circa 1925-1945.Credit…Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM:DCA)

They are among the 70 or so Native American artisans gathering here to earn a living…This living museum of craftspeople, a program of the New Mexico History Museum, is a Santa Fe institution that draws 300 to 1,000 tourists a day. That was before the yellow caution tape went up and downtown Santa Fe became a ghost town.

The gathering of Native artisans under the portal is a Santa Fe institution that draws 300 to 1,000 tourists a day. Credit- Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

New Mexico’s 23 tribal communities make up almost 60 percent of reported cases and half the deaths, though they comprise just 11 percent of the state’s population… Last month, Indian Market in Santa Fe, the country’s oldest and most competitive market, announced that it would be going virtual this August, spawning ripples of anxiety among artists untutored in e-commerce or living in isolated areas with little or no internet connectivity.

‘Most Native artists rely heavily on the principal markets as an economic lifeline,’ said W. Richard West, Jr., president and chief executive of the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. ‘To have it all come crashing down is really tough.’

Mark Bahti, who owns galleries in Tucson and Santa Fe, noted that many artists come from large extended families. ‘When people support an artist, they are supporting a community,’ he said. At Zuni Pueblo (pop. 7600), in a hard-hit part of New Mexico, some 77 percent of households have at least one self-identified artist at home. A young cooperative called ARTZ — for Ancestral Rich Treasures of Zuni — includes Zuni fetish carvers, who sculpt small animals and other spirit world figures from alabaster and other stones. But the tour buses and visitors stopped coming after the virus outbreak.

A mural by the street artist jetsonorama on Highway 160 on the Navajo reservation.Credit…Chip Thomas

On Highway 160 on the Navajo reservation, where jewelry vendors once set up stalls, a black and white mural by the street artist jetsonorama uses the haunting image of a masked Indian in a headdress to underscore, in both Dine’ and English, the urgency of following public health protocols…The economic importance of traditional cultural practices extends to regions not widely associated with the arts. A market study of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota by the First Peoples Fund, a nonprofit that supports Native artists and culture bearers found that 79 percent of home-based businesses were in traditional arts like beadwork and quillwork.

Rolling Rez arts, a roving arts studio, credit union, internet hot spot and mini-trading post on wheels, aimed at reaching artists in far-flung settings. Credit- Bryan Parker

A solution was Rolling Rez arts — a roving arts studio, credit union, internet hot spot and mini-trading post on wheels that until the virus struck — fanned out across 11,000 square miles to reach artists in far-flung settings…The Fund, based in Rapid City, is among the organizations stepping up to provide financial relief for Native artists in 25 states, who have reported losses ranging from $150 to $38,000 since March 1.”

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY:

COVID-19 Tracker in the United States: Story summaries, lists of closures, resources. Last update 06/12/20   Information Here

COVID-19 financial strain? Here are resources in 50 states Federal and state services include monetary and food assistance, unemployment benefits, and more. 

Where to begin? After extensive research, the most comprehensive and user-friendly website for finding assistance from a multitude of programs is arguably Benefits.gov.

COVID-19 online resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Basic information. Indian Health Service National Congress of American IndiansNational Indian Health Board

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden delivered a speech at the funeral for George Floyd on Tuesday, calling on his family to turn his death into “purpose.”

“Now is the time for racial justice. That’s the answer we must give to our children when they ask why. Because when there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America,”Democratic Presidential nominee  ~Joe Biden~

TODAY WE MARCH — TOMORROW WE VOTE!

STAY STRONG — STAY SAFE