For the first time in Viola Awards history the 2018 gala will feature an art piece to be live auctioned at the event. Famed local artist Shonto Begay was commissioned to paint a special piece for the fundraiser that he has donated in support of the Flagstaff Arts Council. The one-of-a-kind piece titled Lenticular Kiss is 36″x 24″ and will be sold in a custom frame (valued at $1,500!) that was generously donated by Hidden Light Framing Department.  The total value of the framed work is $9,000, starting bid will be $2000.

Join us at the 2018 Viola Awards Gala on Saturday, March 3rd at High Country Conference Center for a chance to take this exceptional piece of artwork home. Not able to attend? We are able to take absentee bids in advance by calling the Flagstaff Arts Council at 928.779.2300

Artist statement about Lenticular Kiss

Shonto painted Lenticular Kiss to highlight the elements that make our part of the country so likeable. In this symmetrical work, he paints the lenticular cloud representing moisture over the sacred mountain. Shonto states, “I’ve been seeing this cloud formation more and more over the mountain. It is kind of miraculous. It’s a great celestial beauty, I feel.”

To Shonto, there is a visual poetry of the north country and inspiration in nature. “Seeing things alive, glowing, hopeful, all blessed by the cloud”. The promise of moisture symbolizes the giving and receiving of nature and is complemented by the symphony of sunflowers and the support of the ponderosa pines.


Shonto Begay
Dineh’ (Navajo) Painter. Illustrator. Author. Educator

Born in a hogan and raised on Dineh’ land, known as the Navajo Nation, Shonto Begay began professionally writing, illustrating and painting in 1983. His work captures the striking beauties of a traditional Navajo upbringing and the harsh realities of modern reservation life. Represented in galleries and museums worldwide, he was one of 16 children. His mother is a traditional Navajo rug weaver from the Bitter Water Clan and his father was a medicine man born to the Salt Clan. Shonto grew up herding sheep in Kletha Valley, located in Shonto, Arizona. His acrylic paintings are done in a series of small brush strokes that repeat like the words of a traditional Navajo blessing prayer. Images harken heartfelt childhood memories and resonate the constant struggle for balance and harmony with humankind and the Earth.

Shonto’s traditional life of sustainability and prayer helped him endure the brutality of the U.S. government boarding school he was forced to attend as a child away from the loving family sheep camp he was asked to forget. Shonto speaks to audiences of all ages about inspiration and the importance of education and embracing cultural backgrounds. He is making his film debut as the character Cowboy in the upcoming Native-produced “Monster Slayer Project” – a movie about the Hero Twins, key characters in the Dineh’s origin story. A true storyteller, Shonto written and illustrated several books for Scholastic publishers.

Shonto’s art has been exhibited in solo shows at the Museum of Northern Arizona, Arizona State Museum, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, the American Indian Contemporary Arts Museum in San Francisco and Phoenix Art Museum.

Shonto attended Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools all over the Navajo Reservation and high school in Kayenta. He received an Associates of Fine Art degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California College of Arts and Crafts. He worked a decade in the 1980s as a National Park Service ranger at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Navajo National Monument in Arizona.