EDUCATION: Navajo student draws on family to win emerging artist award

Posted on September 17th, 2009 by americanindiannews in People

Washington, D.C.—Macklin Becenti, an incoming senior at Valley High School in Sanders, Ariz., has won the 2009 Student Artist Competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Indian Education.

By R.A. Whiteside, National Museum of the American Indian  Macklin Becenti, a 19-year-old Navajo, traveled to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian after winning the 2009 Student Artist Competition.

By R.A. Whiteside, National Museum of the American Indian Macklin Becenti, a 19-year-old Navajo, traveled to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian after winning the 2009 Student Artist Competition.

Becenti traveled from his home on the Navajo Reservation to Washington in late July to be honored at the Office of Indian Education and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

His winning lead pencil drawing, depicting a Navajo woman weaving at her loom while a child does schoolwork, is a subtle interpretation of the competition’s theme, “Tradition is my Life, Education is my Future.” To view all the winning entries, go to kids.indianeducation.org/file/2009_SAC_art_winners.pdf.

This year’s competition attracted entries from 604 students from 30 states and more than a dozen Indian nations. Entries were judged in age categories ranging from preschool through high school. Becenti, the winner in the 11th- and 12th-grade category, received the additional honor of being named an Emerging High School Artist by the museum and receiving a trip to Washington.

It is “an opportunity of self-discovery and to gain new personal experiences that can only add to personal growth and greater self-confidence that is often needed by young adults,” said Keevin Lewis, Navajo, a programs coordinator at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Becenti and his mother, Velma Toddy, live in Pine Springs, a community on the south end of the Navajo Reservation where the 19-year-old said he is related to everyone. Living seven miles from Houck, Ariz., and a 90-minute bus ride from school, Becenti draws, weaves, sculpts, sews moccasins and makes silver jewelry. He credits his grandmother, who makes baskets and pottery; a great aunt who weaves; and his uncles, who work in many traditional Navajo arts, with inspiring his artistry.

“When I was small, my uncles who were artists told me I was OK,” Becenti said.

After learning of the contest, Toddy said her son stayed up two nights sketching his entry. She told him, “I know you are going to win. I know it. When he brought back the message that he won, I said, ‘I told you so.’”

Of the drawing, Becenti explained, “I was thinking about education, and a little child growing up around her grandmother or in her tradition. She just got back from school and is doing her work while her grandmother weaves.”

Becenti specializes in portraiture, a skill he developed drawing from photographs. He hopes to study video production in college.

His illustration is included in a traveling art exhibition of all the winning entries. It opened at the U.S. Department of Education on July 21, and will also be shown at the National Museum of the American Indian and the Oklahoma City History Center.

Indian nations represented among the children who won include Northern Paiute, Sault Ste. Marie Tribes of Chippewa Indians, Cherokee, Gila River Indian Community, Mississippi Band of Choctaw, Hopi, Seminole Tribe, United Houma Nation, Oneida Indian Nation, San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache and Ponca Tribe.

By Kara Briggs
American Indian News Service

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