Historian hopes to find artists from Chinle Boarding School

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, December 13, 2012

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(Courtesy photo)

TOP: At least 30 pieces of artwork, created by former students of the Chinle Boarding School in the 1960s, ended up in Louisiana. The current owner is searching for those who created the pieces in hopes of getting the history of the work.
SECOND FROM TOP: This is one of about 30 pieces that surfaced in Louisiana recently. The current owner said he is searching for the student who painted this piece.

I f you were a student at the Chinle Boarding School in the 1960s, perhaps some of your artwork has surfaced in Louisiana.

Ray Stevenson, 51, of Shreveport, La. bought at least 30 pieces of artwork over 10 years ago from an acquaintance but didn't know at the time that the pieces were created by Navajo students at the boarding school.

"I bought them because they were different, so quite naturally being a historian it sparked my interest," he said during a telephone interview with the Times.

"It's not the painting, it's the history," the antique collector and historian said of his reason for collecting the artwork. "I could've sold them many times but I didn't."

For the past three years, Stevenson has been working to display the photos in an exhibit, including having them featured at the Navajo Nation Museum here.

"I just don't want them to go unknown, it's quite a bit of art work," he said.

But before he features the pieces in an exhibit, Stevenson said he hopes the artists from the boarding school, which has since been renamed to Many Farms Community School and located in Many Farms, Ariz., some 15 miles from north of Chinle, gets in touch with him.

"A child did this and I just happen to have it," he said of the pieces. "I want to be able to bring it to Window Rock. So that people who are still living that did this artwork can bring out their children to see it. If it doesn't happen, it is just lost history."

Stevenson said a few of the paintings had names, the school year, and names of the teachers on them. But after that, not much is known about the artwork.

"It would mean so much if I could just get their information," Stevenson said. "I want to find out all I can about it."

"I would love to find out more the information about them," Stevenson said about the art pieces. "I want to preserve them because they are very historical."

If you were an artist at Chinle Boarding School in 1964 and would like to find out if any of your artwork is in Louisiana, Stevenson can be reached at 318-573-2127 or via e-mail at bigmamawarehouse@yahoo.com.

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