When someone says the words “Native American art”, most people have a certain idea of what that means. There are particular styles, materials, and designs which spring to mind with this label. Warren Montoya’s idea of indigenous art, however, sees those labels evolving into new and exciting areas. His desire is to see these emerging artists find their audience.
Traditional Native American jewelry, pottery or beadwork stems from the long history and culture of indigenous people in America. These living cultures are constantly evolving, a change that is opening new doorways for contemporary Native artists. Many contemporary Native American artists see their work through the lens of tradition but with an eye for the 21st century. This means a broadening of the styles, and types of art that are now defined as Native American.
Contemporary art changes go beyond simple design and technique. Part of this evolution has changed the way artists think about their work. Montoya says “artists are taking control, not just relying on other organizations or the institution to do it for them. They are creating their own styles, starting their own stores.” This innovation is one he very much encourages and one reason for the birth of his company, Rezonate Art.
Raised in New Mexico, Montoya’s family is from Santa Ana and Santa Clara Pueblos. Art colored his life from childhood, although his family were not artists themselves. As he puts it, he’s “been really focused on creativity being a practice” all his life. Elementary and high school art classes fed his interest until college, where he earned a BA in Art from Fort Lewis.
These last few years have seen Montoya focus not only on his own art, but on the art community in general. Through his own work, he began to see that artists often had to be a “one-man band”. As he puts it, indigenous artists “face all the common challenges of being an artist, whether you’re native or not.” Many of his fellow artists, living in rural communities, found it difficult to go out and build a network through which to sell their art. It was this need that focused him on finding ways to bring the art community together to support one another.
Rezonate Art, began as a way to provide support and encouragement for artists through an online store. Montoya feels that “it’s a westernized model to be competitors. If we can flip that and advocate for each other, it will help everyone.” Originally focused on helping indigenous artists build their audience and sell their work through the company’s website, Rezonate Art now produces public arts projects and events designed to encourage the growth of artists and afford them opportunities to showcase their work.
Out of this venture came the idea for an additional opportunity. In 2016, Montoya worked with a team of artists, students, and entrepreneurs to put on the REZILIENCE Indigenous Arts Experience, an event which focused on art in a wide variety of forms: poetry, film, dance, visual arts, and more. It took months of planning, but the first Rezilience event offered the opportunity for over thirty artists to show their work.
Today, Warren Montoya is taking Rezilience to the next level, following the path to making the event a full non-profit. Another event is scheduled for April 2017, but Montoya hopes to go further than a one-day event. He sees four main elements to the scope of the Rezilience project: art, education, wellness, and technology. There are plans to produce four programs a year, each focused on one of these elements. Through these events, he hopes to encourage and inform artists and the public, connect them with current trends in the market, and grow networking opportunities for artists to build their audience. Montoya would also like to see a rotation of artists for each event, so that it offers opportunities to a wider array of participants.
The next Rezilience event on April 30, 2017 will be a large-scale creative exhibition that features programs titled Voice, Movement, Design, Expression, Style, and Innovation. Encouraging the arts community through mutual support will bring many new artists to the public eye, encouraging them to continue expanding the boundaries of indigenous art. It is the reason behind the name REZILIENCE; the hope that by growing connections between the indigenous arts community and others, they will nurture their ongoing growth and resilience. You can find Warren and REZILIENCE on Facebook and at RezArtX.com