WASHINGTON – Paige Fourkiller, a Cherokee eighth grader from Oklahoma, has been working overtime to be recognized for her artwork.
For the last few years, she entered a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education that encourages kids in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to create artistic and written representations of certain themes.
This year’s theme was “Tradition is My Life, Education is My Future.”
Fourkiller used pen and ink to draw a colorful representation of a young woman in a graduation cap and gown next to a giant dreamcatcher and a school.
“It’s supposed to be me,” Fourkiller explained. “I’ll graduate from eighth grade this coming year.”
She ended up coming in first place in the sixth through eighth grade artistic division.
Along with two other first place winners, Fourkiller recently traveled to the nation’s capital to see her art displayed in the Education Department’s main lobby.
The full exhibition consists of 21 matted and framed art pieces and a book of essays.
The students’ artwork will later go on tour over the course of the next year to several other venues, including the National Museum of the American Indian, the Oklahoma History Center, the Chicago Children’s Museum and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It’s really humbling to be here,” said Angela Pacheco, another student recognized at the event. “I’m thankful to my family for inspiring me to be here.”
Macklin Becenti, a Navajo student now in 12th grade from Arizona, was recognized for his artistic abilities. He was also chosen to become the first high school participant of NMAI’s Emerging Artist Program.
The 12th grader, of Santo Domingo Pueblo descent, chose to enter the essay portion of the event. Her first place entry was based on her multicultural learning experiences.
She grew up only knowing how to speak the Keres language, so it was quite an achievement to be recognized for her writing in English.
She hopes to attend New Mexico State University after high school, where she plans to pursue an English degree. She also wants to one day be a secondary education teacher.
Macklin Becenti, a Navajo student now in 12th grade from Arizona, was recognized for his artistic abilities. He learned to appreciate art from his uncles, and he plans to study film and video in college.
Becenti was also chosen to become the first high school participant of NMAI’s Emerging Artist Program. The program is meant to encourage the artistic growth of indigenous youth.
“It is a great privilege to be here,” Becenti said. “I am so grateful.”
More information about the exhibit and past and future competitions can be found online.
Next year’s theme will be “Bringing Honor Through Education,” and the deadline for entry is Jan. 29, 2010.