By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News
Creative inclined Native American students of the Marysville School District sauntered through a makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday May 5 and Friday May 6 for the 2022 Art Fest. Accompanied by their families, friends and teachers, the emerging artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed Art Fest patrons and judges with a variety of imaginative works that centered around a communal Tulalip experience.
“Our annual Art Fest is an opportunity for each Native student within the District to express themselves in a creative way. We increased the event this year, going from one day to two days, to provide a more family friendly environment that was both safe and welcoming,” explained event coordinator, Deyamonta Diaz. “All the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this event possible, it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort, is so worth it for our community to witness the pride and joy every student puts into their art. The end result surpassed all our expectations because we got over 900 total submissions. That’s more than double what we’ve averaged the last couple years.”
For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene embraced by emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the District. The Art Fest gives fledgling creatives an opportunity to show off their awe-inspiring talents to the community, while also getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st place blue ribbon and all the bragging rights that come with it.
Such was the case with Northwest Academy 1st grader Ellie Fryberg. She radiated pure joy while leading her family and multiple peers to her 1st place winning drawing of a rose. Delicately drawn in colored pencils and shaded with red and green, Ellie took one picture after another with her adoring fans in front of her framed art piece. She shared roses are her favorite flowers because rose is her middle name. “It took me a day to draw it at school. My teacher helped me a little bit. I draw roses all the time on the weekends,” shared the very happy 7-year-old.
Ellie and her fellow student culture bearers were able to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, plus honorable mention, in a variety of artistic mediums. Categories included culture, drawing, painting, writing, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, and pure heart. The top four from each grade and category received a ceremonial ribbon recognizing their talents and a monetary prize.
“It was amazing to see just how talented our Native students are. The new ideas and concepts they come up with every year continue to surprise us judges,” shared Native Advocate Doug Salinas while admiring the middle school painting section. “I think every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”
This year’s Native Art Fest received over 900 submissions, with the most popular category by far being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. Eleventh grader Samara Davis and sixthgrader Cora Jimicum were two such powerhouses that claimed top honors in multiple categories.
“I like creating art because it’s fun,” said Cora while pointing out all her art pieces that earned ribbons. “Creative writing is my favorite art category because I can create all kinds of characters and have them go through one adventure after another. They can grow and change and just be happy.”
Meanwhile, Art Fest veteran Samara has wowed event attendees for years with her established creative talents. She routinely collects a handful of blue ribbons for entering one-of-a-kind art in as many categories as she can. She admitted to challenging herself more this year by trying mediums she hadn’t in the past, like sculpting and delving into mixed media. For her efforts she was once again rewarded with a number of 1st place ribbons and a stack of prize money. Her little sister, Abigail, has been biding her time, watching and learning from her big sister, to develop her own creative style.
“Growing up and watching my sister and brother both create all kinds of art for this festival, it has made me a better artist because I do try to compete with them, sometimes,” shared 14-year-old Abigail who was most proud of her mixed media ceramic nail set she won 2nd place for. “For me, art is all about expressing yourself and having a creative outlet to process whatever you are going through emotionally. I recommend all students, not just the Native American ones, take art classes because you never know which medium or category you may be super talented at and develop a real passion for.”
Interwoven through the thought-provoking pieces were not so subtle tie-ins to ongoing equality awareness campaigns, human rights issues and demands for social justice. There was a definite spotlight on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s crisis, declarations of the Native-inspired rally cry Water Is Life, and a poem by a young boy that pulled at the heart strings as he detailed his experience of growing up without a dad.
The message being sent loud and clear is that yes, in fact, the youngest among us are paying attention to current events and culture related protests. More importantly, they are capable of channeling their inner turmoil and personal experiences into unique art products.
“When our kids create artwork for this event they are able to mix in elements of their personality, culture, family values, and what matters to them as individuals. It’s really incredible to see how even when there are twenty entries of the same type, each is different and unique in its own way because they reflect the artist who created it,” said Courtney Jefferson, Positive Youth Development manager.
“Witnessing our kids get inspired from cultural pillars like Billy Frank Jr. is nice to see because that means they are learning about these foundational figures in school and retaining the information,” she added. “This proves how powerful it is to educate our people about our shared culture. Especially for the elementary aged children it’s so important they learn about the legacy of those who came before us and made it possible for us to thrive today.”
Overall, this year’s two-day Art Fest showcased the wide-range of artistic skills among our Native American students, while once again confirming the limitless imagination of authentic Native art brought created by the next generation.