ZUNI, NM (Feb. 25, 2022) — Together with the Administration for Native Americans and the Ancestral Rich Treasures of Zuni (ARTZ) Cooperative, the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project will launch its Emerging Artist Apprenticeship Program next month. Open to youth ages 12-24, the program will offer three six-week apprenticeships per year.
The first cohort of 12 young people will begin their apprenticeships in 2D Graphic Design on Monday, Mar. 21. Working closely with Zuni art instructor Keith Edaakie, the apprentices will expand their drawing skills and learn to use their artwork in creative disciplines such as printmaking and sublimation.
According to Joe Claunch, ZYEP’s executive director, the apprenticeship program is a natural extension of the existing arts programming at the nonprofit youth organization. It also acknowledges the community-wide importance of art in Zuni culture.
“Roughly 80 percent of Zuni households have working artists who depend on selling their work for income,” Claunch said. “Their work is deeply rooted in tradition. As our youth are the future culture bearers, we developed the idea early on to connect them with traditional master artists. It’s vital to include kids, because they’re the ones who carry these important traditions forward.
“This spring, the time was right to move forward,” he continued. “ZYEP is at its best when we are listening to our community and are able to use our platform to respond to their vision for local youth. We’re very grateful to the ANA, the ARTZ Cooperative, our artist committee members, and Elroy Natachu Jr. and Kandis Quam, our new art coordinator and art leader, for making all of this possible.”
Cousins Natachu and Quam are longtime artists who have operated their own business for the last six years. Natachu serves as an ARTZ board member, while Quam is the cooperative’s secretary.
“When we heard about the opportunity with ZYEP, we jumped on it,” Natachu said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to mentor and teach the youth, and it’s about more than art. It’s also about business skills, and what to expect when you turn art into a business.”
ZYEP and ARTZ seek to empower the next generation of Zuni artists so they can pursue careers in the arts as well as help strengthen the Pueblo of Zuni’s arts economy. For decades, it has been dominated by outside buyers buying low and selling high.
“We’re cultivating entrepreneurship,” Claunch said. “Through culturally informed and relevant programming, we’re going to teach our kids how to build their own career pathways and to do things differently — through co-ops, independent businesses, art shows, and leveraging technology, including social media. That has transformative power for individuals and the community, as well as for outside relationships.”
During each apprenticeship, participants will have the opportunity to visit regional art shows and art museums. As their apprenticeship ends, they also will be able to showcase and sell their work to the public at their own art show in Zuni.
“Our artists will be treating each young person like a professional from the very beginning, which isn’t happening in the local arts economy right now,” Claunch said. “Through these master artists, our kids will see excellence in their community, and learn how they can build a future in which they thrive.”
Natachu noted that, eventually, higher-level apprenticeships will be available for those who have completed the entry-level Emerging Artist program. These advanced initiatives will involve one apprentice working directly with one mentor, and they will have an even greater focus on entrepreneurship.
“At every level, the apprentices will be exposed to many traditional styles and art forms, develop proficiency with technological tools, gain real-life experience with galleries and the consignment process, and build intergenerational connections through the art co-op,” Natachu said. “They’ll learn how to fill out applications, write bios and artists’ statements, set up a booth, talk to customers, and sell in a positive manner. We’ll show them how to bring Zuni art into the modern era.”
To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), and YouTube (/ZuniYouth).
Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.