It’s a summer learning program and a reinvestment in Hopi arts, language and culture. It’s also another foothold in Hopi education that is making a long-term impact on Native academic outcomes. The Summer Arts Program at The Hopi School, fueled by a grant from First Nations Development Institute, is creating art and driving change on this reservation outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Revival of Art and Meaning
At its very core, the Summer Arts Program introduces the traditional art of basket making, weaving, and moccasin making to the Hotevilla community. Over the years, the knowledge and skills involved in these traditional arts has declined, and Hopi crafts had become endangered. With funding through the Native Youth and Culture Fund, The Hopi School has been able to bolster classes in the Summer Arts Program to teach not only art but the tradition and meaning that accompany it.
In the last summer session, more than 145 students participated in classes that teach many types of art, such as weaving, embroidery, photography, painting, quilting and sewing. The classes raised awareness of art and bolstering its importance in the community, giving more credence to the people who are able to create it.
While the passing down of traditional artistic knowledge and skills is the impetus for the classes, an essential component of the program is the way the classes are taught. The Summer Arts Program is part of the broader The Hopi School, an institution that is tuned in to the Hopi people and how the Hopi learn. Facilitator Dr. Robert Rhodes explains that there are three types of learning environments: formal, which is mostly done in a school setting; formal done outside of a school setting, which might include a special class or religious training; and informal outside of school setting, which, for example, is how we learn to ride a bike or catch a fish.
Rhodes explains that traditional Hopi learning occurs through the informal process. “The Hopi experiment and learn based on cause and effect, trial and error, and building on success,” says Rhodes. “They are artistic, creative and holistic.”
Based on this, the classes at The Hopi School and in the Summer Arts Program incorporate a mentorship model. Classes are often attended by people representing three to four generations at once. There are no lectures or notes. Students learn the way the Hopi learn: by sitting with the elders and experiencing new things hands-on.
Also, by being taught in the Hopi language, the education becomes richer. “Language is tied to the way Hopi think,” says Rhodes. In Hopi, words have broad meanings and implications, reflecting relationships with nature, farming and man. “There are concepts that would take 40 minutes to explain in English,” he says, “but in Hopi, they can be conveyed in five minutes.”
Creating a New Future
The 2016 session of the Summer Arts Program ended with a celebration and art show. Attendance throughout the summer steadily increased, and feedback was positive – students said they want more classes and more hours and days in each class.
As the Summer Arts Program grows, indeed each additional class will reach new students, but it is the long-term effects of the Summer Arts Program that are important to Rhodes and The Hopi School. “Moccasin making is essential to carry on the ways of the Hopi people, but having a place to learn to make those moccasins is essential,” says Rhodes.
The Summer Arts Program has given the Hopi a place to learn, using a learning process that resonates with them. It is a place where the Hopi arts and culture are celebrated, and where language is shared and strengthened. True to the purpose of the grant funding, it is also a place where youth are empowered, and leadership and community are built.
The Hopi School is laying the groundwork for expansion and is grateful for the support of First Nations in helping the program come as far as it has. “First Nations recognizes that art and language is essential to who we are, how we think, and how we learn,” says Rhodes. “With their backing, we keep these attributes alive. This can help keep the foothold of the Hopi people stronger, for longer.”
To learn more about the Hopi School and the Summer Arts Program, visit http://www.hopischool.net.
By Amy Jakober