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Children paint alongside masters

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TUCSON, Ariz. - Children's creativity soars through drawing and creative writing at the Arizona State Museum. Working under the direction of two renowned American Indian artists Shonto Begay, Navajo, and David Dawangyumptewa, Hopi/Navajo, children ages eight to 16 can learn painting techniques to apply to their own pictures.

The family program series is being offered in conjunction with the museum's "Connections Across Generations: The Avery Collection of American Indian Paintings" exhibition, which includes works by both artists. The exhibition is on display through April 2003.

The two American Indian artists will be speaking in the third program of Arizona State Museum's visiting artist lecture series, "Paintings and Stories". These artists will share their life stories, creative expertise, and slides of their work on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the north building of the Arizona State Museum. The exhibition will open for viewing at 7 p.m. and again after the lecture.

Begay and Dawangyumptewa will each present a half-hour slide lecture and then field questions from the audience. Visitors will also have a chance to talk one-on-one with these artists after the formal presentation during a reception and book signing in the museum's lobby. Featured at the book signing will be children's books illustrated by Begay and the poster and "Connections Across Generations" exhibition catalog that feature a painting by Dawangyumptewa. The program is $5 for ASM members, $8 for general public, and free to all students. The artists will also teach free master art classes during a family program at the museum on Dec. 14 from 1-4 p.m.

Shonto Begay's artwork has been displayed in more than 50 galleries and museums including the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, the American Indian Contemporary Art Museum in San Francisco and the Phoenix Art Museum. He received an Associate's of Fine Arts degree at the Institute of American Indian Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts. Begay's acrylics in Arizona State Museum's exhibition are bittersweet commentaries on a changing native world.

David Dawangyumptewa, raised on the Hopi and Navajo reservations, attended schools that have shaped the direction of American Indian art today: the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and the Haskell Institute in Kansas, as well as Northern Arizona University. His art has been recognized with awards at the Museum of Northern Arizona, American Indian Heritage Foundation, and at the Santa Fe and Colorado Indian Markets. In addition to painting, Dawangyumptewa has worked as a stonemason, designed exhibitions, helped establish Flagstaff's Festival of Arts, and served as a high-profile arts advocate throughout the state of Arizona. Dawangyumptewa's paintings in the Museum's exhibition draw on his Hopi background and Water Clan affiliation for their imagery. "Flight of the Dragonflies" is the cover image for the exhibition catalog.

Other activities during the afternoon include a creative writing class with poet Sherwin Bitsui, Navajo. Children and their parents will create a palette of words based on looking at the paintings in the museum.Sherwin Bitsui was raised on the Navajo reservation and studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe before entering the creative writing program at the University of Arizona. He is an artist/instructor with ArtsReach, a Native American creative writing program that works with Indian youth in area middle and high schools. He has also taught as a writer-in-residence for programs in Utah and New Mexico. He serves on the advisory board of the University of Arizona Poetry Center and the editorial board of Red Ink Magazine, as well as being co-chair for the Indigenous Arts Action Alliance.

Visitors to the museum will also be able to add their creative mark to a gigantic sidewalk chalk mural outside the museum's north entrance on Park Street. Painters Leia Maahs and Freia Ramsey will help young artists express their ideas in chalk in the style of Dawangyumptewa and Begay.

The chalk is handmade of tempera paint and plaster by Maahs. In addition, children can set off on special treasure hunts in the exhibition and discover images of corn, animals, and celebration.

The Paintings and Stories family program is made possible by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tucson Pima Arts Council. More information is available at www.statemuseum.arizona.edu.