Water is Life Mural of the Eastern Wall of Grand Canyon Spirits. Photo taken by Amber Benally
This fall The Grand Canyon Trust collaborated with Flagstaff High School, Mural Mice Universal, The Beehive Collective and Grand Canyon Spirits to bring together over 60 student artists to vision and install Flagstaff’s newest public art piece “Water is Life,” proving that young people, their voices and their visions have deep impact and weight in a rapidly evolving world.
In September of this year, Flagstaff High School art students Savannah Bell, Rebecca Encinas, Zia Kypta-Keith, Robin Bradley, Cecily Shaddy, Sherrissa Brown, Theresa, Ethan Johnson, Samantha Woody, Ava Steele, and Cynthia Begay attended a five day artists workshop retreat at Kane Ranch near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Brought together by the Grand Canyon Trust’s Youth Leadership Program, and co-facilitated with the Beehive Collective, the students were tasked with creating a collaborative piece showcasing the past, present and future of water justice on the Colorado Plateau.
Leonard Selestewa shares and teaches about his farm, life and history
To begin to process the pieces, students visited mine sites and met with Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust’s and Haul No’s Sarana Rigg’s and Leonard Selestewa, a Hopi Farmer whose livelihood has been continually affected by coal mining on Black Mesa. These connections and stories charged students with delivering a message of the history of injustice, subsequent resistance and possibilities for the future of water justice on the Colorado Plateau to the public.
Flagstaff High School artists sort through ideas and concepts with the Beehive Collective’s Tyler Bee at Kane Ranch
Students spent days visualizing their ideas, concepts and stories with concept maps, lists and sketches, finally narrowing down their ideas to create a mock-up for the mural. Throughout the fall over 70 students worked with Mural Mice Universal to install the piece and today the 39’x13’ Water is Life mural can be seen on the East facing wall of the Grand Canyon Spirits store (982 N. Fort Valley Rd.).
Zia Kypta-Keith paints the elder and storyteller, Horney Toad Chacter on Water is Life Mural
On October 24th community members gathered to listen to the story of the mural, told by the student designers, collaborators and contributors. They described their process, motivation and meanings behind their work and left the community with a call to act now! The students left the audience to reflect on the role of young leaders in their communities. Declaring that they are the future and can accomplish the seemingly impossible when given the chance.
Savannah Bell, Rebecca Encinas, Zia Kypta-Keith, Robin Bradley, Cecily Shaddy,
Sherrissa Brown, Theresa, Alexis Talayumptewa, Ethan Johnson, Samantha Woody, Ava Steele, and Cynthia Begay unveil the Water is Life Mural with Mural Mice Universal Margaret Dawer, R. E. Wall and Shiloh Dog. Photo by Erin Ford
Funding for this project was provided by Cecily Maniaci, owner of Grand Canyon Spirits, BBB Revenues from the City of Flagstaff, and the Flagstaff Arts Council.
Written by Chelsea Griffin, Youth Leadership Program Coordinator at Grand Canyon Trust