North Central College - Naperville, IL

Exploring cultures, sharing opportunities

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Katlyn Garris works molten glass as Ramson Lomatewama provides feedback.
Katlyn Garris works molten glass as Ramson Lomatewama provides feedback.

Three students who are active in Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) recently visited the Hopi School near the Grand Canyon in Arizona to learn more about Hopi art and build relationships that could result in the sale of products on campus.  Arlinda Bajrami ’12, Katelyn Garris ’12, and Raine Tagare ’12, along with Matt Krystal, assistant professor of anthropology, and Gerald Thalman, associate professor of accounting, also helped dig a trench for electrical cable to power a new glassblowing studio.

The SIFE organization has been importing coffee, chocolate and crafts from Guatemala so producers in that country receive fair prices for their goods. “These Hopi artists produce two items that SIFE customers regularly inquire about: jewelry and basketry,” says Krystal. “This developing partnership with the Hopi School will allow us direct and regular contact with the producers.”

Hopi women make three types of baskets: wicker, woven and coil. These baskets are given as gifts at ceremonial events, weddings, and in longer-term relationships among families. They require a great deal of work in collecting materials, dying and weaving. The Hopi are also known for handmade, inlay silver jewelry that includes the artist’s hallmark. Other products with potential for local sales include blue corn meal and tea.

During the trip, the group visited five art classes of the Hopi School and met and talked with about seven other artists, some well-established. In addition to a class in beginning glassblowing, the trip included visits to an art supply shop that many artists patronize as well as a variety of retail and gallery spaces where art is sold. The team saw ancient rock art and visited the Grand Canyon. “In only a week, we had a tremendous learning experience and established foundations for lasting friendships,” says Krystal.

The team experienced basic living conditions, meaning no indoor plumbing or air conditioning. “Our hosts, members of the Lomatewama family, were more than hospitable,” says Krystal. “They were warm, friendly, open, and sharing. The living conditions were basic, the landscapes spectacular and the food delicious.” Ramson Lomatewama previously taught and exhibited his art at North Central.

History major Raine Tagare found that the trip offered an enlightening perspective for her studies. “The Hopi trip changed my perspective on what I believed history to be,” she says. “The Hopi, like other Native Americans, have a history of oral traditions and don’t necessarily rely on written documents to tell their stories. This makes the art extra special in that they preserve and use traditional motifs, colors and other designs.”