“Joeseph Arnoux had a dream,” says María Gallegos, executive director of Working Classroom. Arnoux is a teaching artist that works with middle school students through Working Classroom and Native American Community Academy to teach art. His dream was for his students to have the same opportunity that he had just a few years earlier in 2016 to make something lasting that people would see, enjoy and be part of. Through perseverance, lessons about the professional side of the art business and plenty of snacks, two hotel rooms at the Nativo Lodge now bear the distinct mark and creative expression of 15 young artists.
The last two weeks of this past February brought the students into Nativo Lodge, paintbrushes in hand, but the story starts much earlier than that with what is often the hard part of any professional art project—convincing someone to pay for it. “That’s why this project is different,” says Gallegos. “They were professional.” Nativo Lodge had become known for its hotel rooms painted by contemporary Native American artists, but these were just kids. They needed to put together a proposal and convince the hotel that they could complete the project with painting on par with the other hotel rooms. The students rose to the challenge, learning, in Arnoux’s words, “not only the skills of art, but the business side.”
The rooms themselves are distinctive from the others within Nativo Lodge for the collaborative approach to painting the student took. The room called Sunrise Mountain Planting Love is the work of the middle school students under the direction of teaching artist Joeseph Arnoux. Silhouettes of the students themselves line the walls, with images of medicinal flowering plants the students say are meant to “send a positive message of harmony and reciprocity with the earth, and the many healing gifts She brings.” Forward thinking, these students that range in age from 11 to 14 are Hadley Daye, Jaislyn Loretto, Zemira McCants, Zeriah McCants, Jaislynn Preston, Jazmine Sterba, Kaitlyn Teller and Phoenix Whatanome.
The high school room is called Shucks. Teaching artist Marina Eskeets helped the students, ranging in age from 15 to 17, to manifest their own ideas that fill the room with many expressions, occasionally tranquil, sometimes frenetic. Guests that enjoy the reds and oranges of the Southwestern sunset will find a bathroom reduced to black and white imagery, and words of welcome. The students that painted Shucks are Zoe Callan, Nate Sanchez, William Higgins, Alyssa Johnson, Bah’ Yazhi Bahe, Sky Lucero and Skylour Chavez.
The opening reception for the rooms this Thursday offers an opportunity for the students to show family, fellow students and the public their work. Corresponding, coincidently, with the end of the Native American Community Academy school year, Nativo Lodge will open not only the two student rooms, but all 47 artist rooms the hotel has commissioned over the seven years of the program. It is said in the students’ artist statement for the room Sunrise Mountain Planting Love, but is likely true of all 47 rooms at Nativo Lodge that “with these creative seeds planted, we manifest a new destiny for our future.”