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Contributed by Museum of Northern Arizona


Museum of Northern Arizona co-founder Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton developed and organized the first Hopi Craftsman Exhibition on the July 4th weekend in 1930. Mrs. Colton had a special affinity for the Hopi people, and wanted to find a means to promote Hopi craftsmanship and art that would provide creative, cultural, and financial benefits for their community. In 1931, the criteria of the Hopi Craftsman Exhibition were listed as follows:

  1. to encourage the manufacture of objects of artistic and commercial value which have fallen into disuse and are becoming rare;
  2. to stimulate better workmanship;
  3. to encourage the development of new forms of art of purely Indian design; and
  4. to create a wider market for Hopi goods of the finest type.

Works of art were collected by Museum staff during regular collecting trips to the Hopi villages, a practice which continues today. Much like in the past, current festival organizers visit with individual artists and encourage submitting both utilitarian and artistic pieces (ceramics, basketry, katsinas, textiles, jewelry) for judging and potential consignment sales. Artists and demonstrators are also invited to sell and demonstrate their work directly for Museum visitors during the festival.

Today's Hopi festival - the Hopi Festival of Arts & Crafts - has undergone some changes since its first incarnation, but the goal of bringing increased awareness of Hopi culture through its arts and crafts remains its core intent.

The Photographs

A concerted effort was made by Museum of Northern Arizona photographers in 1956 to begin professionally photographing individual Hopi artists - often portrait style - and sometimes with examples of their craft. Many artists, particularly those that were regular prize winners, were photographed during the Museum's regular collecting trips to the Hopi Reservation. This practice of photographing artists professionally continued until the 1970s when Museum resources were diverted elsewhere and this practice was ultimately discontinued. What remains is a thorough and comprehensive look at the development of Hopi art from a specific period, particularly as an individual artist's style evolved over this same time. Moreover, these photographs have allowed Hopi community members to see images of family and friends who were perhaps otherwise not photographed during this period.

About this Project

In December 2010, the Museum Archivist was approached by eighth-grade Hopi student Mowana Koyiyumptewa to help her with a critical eighth grade project. Mowana was to choose a topic and work on a project that she felt would expand her horizons, enable her to understand more of the world in which she lives, and would allow her to provide something that would ultimately benefit her community. The Archivist determined that having a selection (1956-1965) of the Museum's Hopi artist photographs digitized and made available online would satisfy all of these criteria, as well as provide a great test bed for the Museum to explore future related endeavors. Over a period of four months, Mowana came in to select, digitize, and enter any available descriptive information for each of the photographs. Mowana further enhanced some descriptions by providing complementary corrections to incorrect spelling and by interjecting personal memories when she came across images of family members that she had never before seen.

It is hoped that other members of the Hopi community viewing this collection will assist the Museum of Northern Arizona with enhanced descriptions similar to those provided by Mowana. It is anticipated that the Museum will contribute future photographs from its vast collections to this project in the future.

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