2020 Viola Award Finalist for Excellence in Visual Arts

The Museum of Northern Arizona states in their mission statement that they intend to inspire love towards the natural and cultural heritage of the Colorado Plateau. The Force Is With Our People promotes the Museum’s mission by engaging in an interesting side of the history and culture of the Native peoples of the Colorado Plateau. Tony Thibodeau, anthropologist and curator at the Museum of Northern Arizona, was inspired to explore the question of why Star Wars seems to resonate so heavily with some contemporary Native artists in the region. The art showcases the widespread phenomena of Native artists crossing traditional and modern Indigenous imagery with the sci-fi fantasy of Star Wars. Work in the show consists of artistic mediums ranging from painting, drawing, ceramics, beadwork, graphic art, cosplay outfits, and a full-scale, functioning R2-D2 droid painted in Hopi pottery designs. Over twenty contemporary Native artists are represented by over seventy-five works in this exhibit. 

Artists include: Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa), Dale Deforest (Diné), Ryan Singer (Diné), Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa), Mavasta Honyouti (Hopi), Enoch Endwarrior (Diné /Oneida), Rod Velarde (Jicarilla Apache), Mike Toya (Jemez Pueblo), Duane Koyawena (Hopi), Farlan and Alesia Quetawki (Zuni), Cynthia Begay (Diné/Hopi/Chicana), Randall J. Wilson (Diné), Jonathan Nelson (Diné), Dezbah Rose (Yuchi/Chippewa/Diné), Darby Raymond-Overstreet (Diné), Raymond Trujillo (Laguna Pueblo), Randy Kemp (Choctaw/Muscogee-Creek/Euchee), Shandiin Yessilth (Diné), Shaun Beyale (Diné), Jared Tso (Diné ), Kim Lohnes (Diné ), Landis Bahe (Diné); Virgil Wood (Diné ); Geri Hongeva (Diné); and Baje Whitethorne Sr. (Diné).

This exhibit is on display from October 2019 to May 2020.


From the AZ Daily Sun:

Artist, Ryan Singer on the educational component of this exhibit:

“‘It’s a way to teach younger people… To get people to think or educate people. And

it’s not just for native kids, it’s also for non-native kids to sort of figure out what was going on and get them educated,” Singer says. “The whole thing is about education, about knowledge. It’s not about pointing fingers or whatever. It’s just about what the real history is and that’s what happened. It’s better to learn from that than to repeat history.”’

Duane Koyawena, another artist featured in the show, on the message of the exhibit:

“‘I like to paint stuff that I like in my Hopi culture. Now with Star Wars and that whole combination, this is who I am as an artist, this is what I like. So being able to convey this and also giving young native kids that inspiration and helping them connect… I feel like it broadens the picture.’”

AZ Daily Sun Article 

AZ Daily Sun Article

MNA Website

NPR Feature

Forbes.com Article

CBC Article