Smoki Museum Arts Festival celebrates Native American culture
PRESCOTT - David Gabay had a broad smile on his face as he watched Tony Duncan perform a complex five-hoop dance at the seventh annual Smoki Museum Southwest Indian Arts Festival Sunday afternoon.
"Amazing," he said. "I'm from Israel. This is the first time I've seen this."
Gabay picked an opportune time to catch his first traditional hoop dance -Duncan is the 2011 World Champion Hoop Dancer, crowned in February. His whole family dances, too, as the Yellow Bird Apache Dancers.
Duncan, 27, has been dancing since he was 5 years old, but that's not his only skill. He also plays Apache flute as part of Estun-Bah, a trio that plays traditional Native American music. Estun-Bah is an Apache word that translates to "for the woman" - the flute has historically been a courting instrument, played by a man before approaching a woman.
The chance to see Duncan perform was just one of the attractions over the weekend at the Smoki Museum.
"We were packed," said Cindy Gresser, Executive Director of the museum. "All of our jewelers did really, really well" in sales.
She said the annual fundraiser for the museum was successful despite the howling wind on Sunday that forced some exhibitors indoors and others to tear down tents before they blew away. It could have been worse, said Gresser. "It rained on us one year."
As Duncan played his flute on stage, Navajo artist Rueben Richards of Tuba City put the final touches on a painting of a hoop dancer. He seemed very at home painting in a busy public venue; that may have been because, he said, he listens to a lot of Estun-Bah in his studio while he works.
"This is just a go-with-the-flow," Richards, 45, said. "I don't really have a (subject), but I can just change it as I go." He mixed colors on a palette and added highlights to the painting as several onlookers got a good look at how he creates his art.
Richards, who said he started with pencil drawings and began painting 16 years ago, was happy to answer questions, from how he combines colors to the technique he uses to make some unique backgrounds for his large works.
Julie Gabay said she appreciates the background tales that often lead to the creation of the art, be it sculpture, painting, music or dance. "I like the stories they tell with their art," she said.