News Release – A Trove of Native Art Headed to Diné College’s 50th Anniversary Silent Auction

Scottsdale, Ariz., Event Targeting Scholarships

Tsaile, Ariz. — After a lot of hard work and preparation, students in Diné College’s Navajo Cultural Arts Program (NCAP) chose to donate some of their artwork to an upcoming silent auction that benefits their own.

Most students depend on some type of funding to pay for their education. And at Diné College — student population around 1,535 — the majority of the student body relies on outside funds.

“I don’t know a lot of people who just have the money to go to college, no matter where it is,” Sue Begay, an NCAP student at Diné College, said. “I’m doing something very positive for a student at Diné College who needs money to get through school. That’s why I don’t have a problem giving something I’ve done at NCAP to this event.”

And that’s the reason behind the first annual Diné College Scholarship gala and silent auction this weekend. About a handful of NCAP students donated something along the lines of weaving, moccasin making, basketry and silversmithing — which is NCAP’s focus.

“It seems fitting that students would be contributing to the silent auction to help raise funds for scholarships. This is the type of student we have here at Diné College: They give to help others,” Diné College President Monty Roessel said.

The NHC Component

Nonabah Sam has devoted a large part of her life to dealing with artists and artwork.

Sam, the curator at Diné College’s Ned Hatathli Center Museum, finds art so fascinating that she, and numerous others past and present connected to Diné College, stepped forward to be the point-person to coordinate Diné College’s Sept. 22 silent auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The silent auction is part of a bigger scholarship gala — a series of events throughout 2018 that recognize the 50 years of service. The list of contributors and organizers includes people like the family of former Diné College President Dean Jackson.

Sam, and the other contributors, have brought together artists such as Baje Whitethorne, Jennifer Curtis, Antoinette Thompson, Patrick Hubbell and Begay, among others, — who have donated works to the auction. Modern and rare art of all kinds will be up for sale.

“It’s pretty exciting when you’re able to reach out to artists and they are willing to help,” Sam said. “I reached out to many artists who I am close to, because the art world is small. Over the years, I have collaborated and worked with many of them and because I come from a family of artists, it only seems fair to reach out and ask for support.”

  • Baje Whitethorne

Whitethorne grew up on the Navajo Nation in Shonto, Ariz. Sam explained that Whitethorne’s artwork is a reflection of culture, depicting landscapes and the harmony of the Navajo way of life. In most of Whitethorne’s works, Sam noted, is a small folding chair, popularly regarded as Whitethorne’s personal trademark. “We are so grateful to see (Baje) contribute to Diné College in this way,” Sam said.

  • Jennifer Curtis

Curtis is the daughter of famed Navajo silversmith Thomas Curtis. As a child, she helped the elder Curtis as he made pieces, ultimately learning the craft from him. Specializing in heavy-gauge sterling silver, Curtis is the recipient of a string of first place prizes at the renowned annual Santa Fe Indian Market.

Other artists included in the auction are: Shane Hendren, Byron McCurtain, Penny Singer, Mark Swazo-Hinds, and students from Diné College’s Navajo Cultural Arts Program like Sam Slater, Sue Begay, Carlon Ami and Waycee Harvey, Sam said.

The Artists

Baje Whitethorne of Shonto, Arizona, said he’ll be doing a live painting from the time the gala starts at 6 p.m. until it ends at 10 p.m. He said the name of what he’ll paint is “What is Navajo?” saying the painting will depict aspects of Navajo culture and history. Whitethorne is a former art instructor at Diné College and said giving back is something he doesn’t think two times about.

“This is about scholarships and helping students,” Whitethorne said. “I’m looking forward to getting together with the entire Diné College community for this very worthy cause.”

Antoinette Thompson of Lukachukai, Arizona, said she’s donating a 20-by-32 artwork entitled “Peace on Earth.” She said the piece is acrylic and aerosol spray based. Thompson’s work was on display late last year at the NHC museum and she also gave free instructive sessions for beginning student artists at the exhibit. Thompson stumbled into art, admitting that for years she was addicted to alcohol and drugs.

“This is definitely for a good cause,” Thompson said. “I won’t be able to make it to Scottsdale, but I enjoy helping the College meet its scholarship fundraising goals.”

Sue Begay of Dennehotso, Arizona, is one of several Diné College students who donated artwork. Begay, a Diné Studies major, completed a 20-by-22 rug that depicts sheep.

“I am very appreciative for what Diné College has done for me,” Begay said. “My work ethic has improved and I am so much of a better person since attending Diné College.”

Begay’s enthusiasm wasn’t lost on College officials.

The college is celebrating its 50th anniversary and has had recognitions at each of its six campuses in Crownpoint, Chinle, Window Rock Tuba City, Shiprock and Tsaile. The gala features a dinner, and program entertainment, in addition to the silent auction, which features American Indian art and jewelry and gifts and services. The auction begins at 6 p.m. and a dinner follows at 7.

Mark Trahant, a noted journalist, will be the gala’s master of ceremonies. Trahant is a former editorial page editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and current editor at Indian Country Today.

Donations are welcomed from the general public and are tax deductible. The event is slated for the Scottsdale Resort, 7700 E. McCormick Parkway.

Diné College is the first tribally-controlled place of higher education in the United States. It was originally established as Navajo Community College, having gone through the name change in 1997.




Marie R. Etsitty Nez 
Vice President of External Affairs

George Joe, M.A., M.Ed, Director Of Marketing and Communications

Bernie DotsonPublic Relations Officer

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