Many Farms starts arts festival, hopes for growth

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

MANY FARMS, Ariz., April 5, 2012

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(Times photo - Cindy Yurth)

TOP: Laramie Tso, Terius Tsosie, Brooke Lampert and Aubrey Fernandez comprise Ingenue, the new string quartet at Chinle High School, which performed at the the inaugural Many Farms Fine Arts Festival March 30.
SECOND FROM TOP: Shondin Hoswoot watches as Christen Braidhair of Chinle smudges her charcoal drawing March 30 at the Many Farms Fine Arts Festival. Braidhair competed in both the visual art and music portions of the festival.
THIRD FROM TOP: A hodgepodge of found objects provides inspiration at the still life station, as Many Farms High School senior Angela Manuelito sketches her version at the Many Farms Fine Arts Festival. The trick, Manuelito said, is to "pick out the things that you like and just focus on them."

S hh! Nobody tell the kids this is educational.

It looked like a lively teenage party Friday at Many Farms High School as a couple of hundred young artists and musicians from across the reservation performed for one another, browsed each other's artwork and tried their hand at charcoal sketching, printmaking and collage.

It was actually the first-ever, and hopefully not last, Many Farms Fine Arts Festival.

The brainchild of Many Farms High School music teacher Carol Ridley and art teacher Michaela Brady, the festival is the result of the school's new emphasis on cross-curricular education, Brady said.

"Miss Ridley and I were thinking of something we could do together, and we came up with this," Brady said Friday as her students manned "art stations" where anybody, even the music students, could try their hand at sketching a still life or tracing around the body of a colleague to make a life-size silhouette.

Brady said she had long bemoaned the dearth of exhibition opportunities for her students.

"They're so talented," she said, "and the nearest festival I've been invited to is in Phoenix."

Ridley agreed. "It's very hard to find the kids a place to showcase their talents," she said.

Nine schools from as far away as Navajo, N.M., and Kayenta, took the teachers up on the invitation, and all had very different programs.

Since most reservation high schools have only one music teacher and one art teacher, if that, they tend to focus on their specialty. Chinle and Monument Valley, for example, have band and guitar; Window Rock has orchestra.

"At our school," Brady said, "we just have choir and piano. So our kids are going, 'Oh my gosh, did you hear that band?' and their kids are wanting to hear the piano.

"It's an eye-opener for the kids to see other people are doing art too, just doing different things from us," she said. "They get to play off each other, be inspired by each other."

Both the art and music portions of the festival were juried, so the participants got to receive constructive criticism and see how their painting or musical number stacked up against those of their peers.

But the day clearly was not about competition as the students shyly complimented each other's artwork or musicianship. Some visual artists learned a few guitar chords, and musicians smiled as they sketched each other, getting tips on shadow and perspective from the art kids.

"It's awesome," declared Many Farms senior Angela Manuelito, brushing her bleached strawberry blonde locks out of her eyes as she sketched a still life with a human skull. "You get to do activities, watch some music being performed."

And the best part was, they were still in school.

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