By Meek Watchman

During the summer, amid the pandemic, Navajo communities were faced with a great deal of hardship. A community response was created to combat daily curfews and weekend lockdowns and “Rez heart work” was born.

The launch of Rezheartwork began with a call for donations to assemble art kits to Navajo youth. Within one week, Rezheartwork successfully raised over $5K in donations. It purchased art supplies and distributed over 350 art kits on July 2, 2020 in Window Rock, Arizona with a drive through pick-up in the parking lot of the Navajo Nation Museum.

Since the success of its art supply distribution, the need for art and urgency to create spaces for art has become apparent. Because of the generosity from its donors, Rezheartwork has been able to continue its efforts, including summer online art contests, “mini-grants” to support young artists, and most recently art retreats.

On Saturday, September 19, 2020, Rezheartwork hosted its very first “Art Retreat” for female/two-spirit youth artists ages 9-13. To make an Art Retreat possible, Rezheartwork youth artists donated their artwork to help with fundraising. Initially, we set a modest goal of raising $975.00. To our surprise, we raised over $2K within one week. In total, we sold 23 art prints and raised $1.5K in direct donations. We were happy to see the art community in action and help our artists achieve a milestone–selling their artwork for the first time. We even shipped art prints to New York City! We were delighted to receive generous support from Dizzy Magazine, based in Brooklyn, NY. Through Dizzy’s network, we were able to secure over $500. We truly thank Dizzy Magazine for its time and resources.

With $2K we put on a fantastic first Art Retreat. We catered the event, hired additional artists and provided all supplies for the participating artists. Each youth artist also received a small stipend of $50. Additionally, through this project, Rezheartwork was able to support seven Navajo-owned businesses and hire two Navajo instructors. We are so happy our funding created opportunities for our peers and supporters, including: 4Your Plate Only (Navajo-owned catering company), Kaalogii Kisses (Navajo-owned Art Business), Hannah Manuelito Photography (Navajo-owned business), Evonne Yazzie (local Navajo seamstress), and Roy Hubbell (Navajo-owned business).

For our first Art Retreat, we came together early Saturday morning at ART123 Gallery in downtown Gallup. We had the entire gallery to ourselves and opened with breakfast and a wellness workshop. Our artists ate pink pancakes with fresh berries, chocolate and cream, then went right into a wellness workshop lead by Meek Watchman, poet/aerialist.

After several giggles from learning the “pigeon” and “seal” poses, our youth artists were ready for their online acrylic painting workshop with Deon Mitchell of Kaalogii Kisses. Deon was an absolute pleasure to work with. During our retreat, we learned that it was Deon’s 94th paint workshop she hosted. Regardless that Deon was in another city, it felt as if she were right there in person. Deon’s delicate guidance and humor ushered an energy the youth artists could relate to and learn from.

Then, we went right into lunch and our Artist Talk. While the artists ate lunch, we listened to the incredibly talented Hannah Manuelito, photographer/artist, as shared her journey and how she found herself through art. 

We closed the Retreat with a stretching circle and welcomed parents to join. We ate cupcakes and cookies as each artist was presented with gifts, an award and roses for their accomplishments and growth during the retreat.

Ahe’hee’ everyone involved in this project, especially Jordan Bowman for photographing the entire event. it was an amazing experience for our youth artists.

For more information about Rezheartwork, including how to donate, please visit: www.meekwatchman/rezheartwork

To contact:

To send art supplies:
c/o Meek Watchman
PO Box 10
Window Rock, AZ 86515

All photos by Jordan Bowman.