PHOENIX -- Gary Avey, the founder and publisher of Native Peoples magazine,
passed away in his Phoenix home on Dec. 20, felled by complications from
lung cancer. A widely known and beloved figure in the American Indian arts
and cultural community, he launched Native Peoples in 1987, dedicated to
"the sensitive portrayal of the arts and lifeways of the Native peoples of
the Americas." But this was just the last jewel of a lifetime of endeavor.
Avey was born in Phoenix on June 5, 1940, and was the third generation of
his family to be involved in the arts in Arizona. His paternal grandmother
became an art teacher in Mesa in 1920 -- perhaps the first public school
art teacher in the state. His father, George Avey, paired with Raymond
Carlson in 1938 to transform a state highway department pamphlet into
Arizona Highways magazine.
He graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science
degree in 1965, an event followed by an Army commission. After several
years on the East German border as a captain in the 2nd Armored Cavalry,
Avey returned to ASU to complete the coursework for a Master's in Art
Education. Freelance graphic design work led him to his first position in
the publishing realm: as art director at the printing firm W.A. Krueger. In
1979, he was selected editor of Arizona Highways. Under his direction, the
magazine grew to its all-time-high circulation of 500,000, and he oversaw
production of many fine large-format books, calendars and even the state
In 1985, he was appointed deputy director of the Heard Museum in Phoenix,
where, among his other duties, in 1987 he launched a modest quarterly
museum magazine called Native Peoples. Taking a huge leap of faith, but
believing the publication could flourish as an independent venture, Avey
left the museum in 1988 to focus on the magazine.
Since its inception, the magazine has run some 550 major articles and
countless shorter stories exploring almost every facet of life among the
diverse Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere from the Altiplano of
Bolivia to the Canadian Arctic, featuring Native foods, music, places,
artists, athletes, farmers, thinkers, shamans, storytellers and even one
astronaut. It remembers the past, profiles the living and dances on the
cutting edge, telling the tales of the astounding florescence of American
Indian art, culture and community as we pass into a new millennium. Gary
grew the magazine from a small publication of the Heard Museum into an
attractive, thought-provoking, self-supporting bi-monthly magazine
recognized around the world.
Despite the difficult task of maintaining an eclectic magazine, Avey also
found time to serve in many capacities as a volunteer, administrator and
organizer. Among other positions, he served on the board of directors of
St. Luke's Hospital for about 15 years, for many years on the board of the
Phoenix Indian Center and six years as chairman of the Arizona Commission
on the Arts. He was a board member of Arizonans for Cultural Development
and was on the Arts and Business Council of Greater Phoenix.
One of his proudest final appointments was that of committee chairman for
arts and cultural development for MPAC, funded by the Flynn Foundation. In
2002, he received the Arts Advocate of the Year Award from Business
Volunteers for the Arts, and in the fall of 2005, he was honored with an
award from Native American Recognition Days of Arizona for his many
services performed for the American Indian community.
Every week for most of his life he served in the food line at St. Vincent
de Paul church in Phoenix, and rang the bell every holiday season for the
Salvation Army. He simply enjoyed wishing strangers a merry Christmas,
saying, "God bless you."
Gary believed in doing; and his pluck, his humor, his determination and his
vision will be missed.