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Camp gives students taste of traditional native art


A dozen American Indian high school students sat in a room, concentrating hard on the beginning of a small loom in front of them.


Dozens of seemingly tangled strings loosely connected two wooden poles that would be the basis for a rug they will weave later. Native music played softly in the background as Lorraine Begay Manavi paced the room, helping students with their net of yarn.


Rug weaving was the first form of art introduced to the students as part of the second annual Native Youth Art Camp at San Juan College. Manavi, a Navajo language and rug weaving instructor at the college, shared techniques and rug designs with the students.


“I like it,” Fernando Charley, a 16-year-old student at Piedra Vista High School, said about the course.


Although, rug weaving is not his main art form, he said: “Being in this camp gives me guidance.” After high school, he plans to go to an art college in New York.


Fellow Piedra Vista student Sonseerea Sells, 17, creates all sorts of art but focuses primarily on photography. She said the camp encourages her to consider art as a possible future career.


The rug weaving session continues for four to five more hours, and the students should have about an inch or two of weaving done by the end of the day, Manavi said.


Manavi also teaches the students some of the oral history of the rug and the symbolism of rug designs, the tools and the loom.


During a lunch break, the young artists moved to a room where nachos and tacos were served. They ate quietly, still a little shy as this was their first chance to interact with each other.


“I learned something,” said Robrenda Alsbury, a 17-year-old student at Aztec High School who had never tried rug weaving.


While she comes from a somewhat traditional family, Alsbury said she came to the camp to expand the artistic values of her culture.


That’s the basis of the camp, for students to get in touch with their cultural arts, said Cindy McNealy, gallery coordinator.


“The Native American culture is just amazing and it’s so diverse. There’s so much art and beauty in it and we want them to be aware of that,” she said.


The camp’s mission also is to provide direction for the young artists and instruction on how they could go about making a career in art, McNealy said.


“There’s plenty of ways to have an art career,” she said. “A lot of them are told that you can’t make a living in art, and that’s just not true.”


Art teachers from local high schools shared the same view and selected a few of their motivated students for the camp.


The students were then scheduled for an interview and members of the Native Youth Art Camp took a look at their portfolios. Recommendations to attend the camp can come from any schools in the area.


“We try to reach out as far as possible,” Manavi said. “We’re improving every year.”

– Associated Press

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