Native Realities: Superheroes of Past, Present, and Future

Over the summer of 2016 Creative Startups worked along side numerous partner organizations to put on a workshop with students and teachers from the Pueblo of Zuni. This workshop hatched the Zuni Pueblo Heroes. The inspiration was borne out of ideas on how to transform the existing landscape along Zuni MainStreet using the pueblo’s culture and identity. The resulting collection of original comics and Zuni Language Dictionaries on entrepreneurship were created during a series of project-based curriculum development workshops.

Native Realities, a member of the most recent Creative Startups Accelerator Cohort, a leading purveyor of Native pop and comic art, was instrumental to the initiative. Lee Francis, Founder of Native Realities, inspired students and teachers to create Zuni heroes using storylines around comic characters. These wondrous representations, imbibed with superhuman powers, flex their abilities to transform their community into places of the heart. Creative Startups facilitated discussions with Zuni teachers and students to discover linkages between Zuni core values, entrepreneurship, and youth leadership, provoking everyone to reimagine how entrepreneurship could diversify the economy along Zuni MainStreet. Under the direction of Professor Marjorie Krebs, Zuni language teachers working with curriculum trainers from UNM ZETAC to translate these concepts into native language, ideas and form. Zuni language teachers led the group in creating the first-ever Zuni language dictionary of creative placemaking and entrepreneurship.

The collaboration received additional guidance and inspiration from Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi) Director Ted Jojola (Isleta Pueblo) and A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center consultant Miranda Belardi-Lewis (Zuni Pueblo).  Ted introduced the concept of placemaking and led everyone on an exploration of their own MainStreet where they learned to reimagine their community as a creative and dynamic economy based in Zuni values and culture. The group navigated around the vacant buildings, weedy lots and swatted voracious elm beetles! Miranda brought three well-known Zuni women artists to present to the class and share their stories about place and culture.  

form & concept, upon hearing of the initiative readily invited the group to present their works at an opening in the highly regarded gallery in downtown Santa Fe. The show is being held in conjunction with the world’s first Indigenous Comic Con, which launches in Albuquerque on November 18th at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Native Realities shares the stories of superheroes across Native cultures. With the comics created by youth and teachers in Zuni Pueblo, and the works of professional comic artists Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva), Jonathan Nelson (Diné), Jon Proudstar (Yaqui), Ryan Singer (Navajo), and Arigon Starr (Kickapoo), the show invites the public to consider the role of heroes - defined as everyday people doing extraordinary work - in our lives.

The Native Realities: Superheroes of Past, Present, and Future show opening will be at the form & concept gallery in Santa Fe, NM on Friday November 11th from 5:00 - 7:00 pm.  The show will be up through December 23rd.

The Zuni Pueblo Heroes initiative is part of a larger project—Solving Real Places for Real People: Revitalizing Zuni MainStreet an ArtPlace America project. With efforts led by the iD+Pi at UNM, they have teamed up with Creative Startups and the UNM ZETAC (Zuni: Engaging Teachers and Community) project, a W. K. Kellogg Foundation initiative. The workshop effort was also supported by the Zuni Public Schools, A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center and the Pueblo of Zuni MainStreet organization. The goal of ArtPlace America MainStreet Zuni is to engage local artists and the people in Pueblo-driven community design.