Contact: Wendel Sloan at 575.562.2253
PORTALES—A Walker/Whitethorne Family Art Show is on exhibit in the Runnel’s Art Gallery and the Foyer of Golden Library at Eastern New Mexico University during the summer of 2008. There will be a reception Monday, June 23, from 3–6 p.m. Many of the artists plan to be in attendance. The public is invited.
In 1965, a young Navajo boy at Tuba City Boarding School showed great promise as an artist. His 8th grade teacher recommended that he apply to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, the premier art school for Native Americans. He applied and was accepted but with one provision—he had to have completed the ninth grade. IAIA started with the Sophomore Class. What could he do? There were no boarding high schools on the reservation and his family lived fifty miles away, too far from a public school to live at home. His teacher, Jerry Walker, offered to let him stay with the Walker family and attend Tuba City Public School for a year. Thus, began the love and co-mingling of two diverse families.
At the end of the freshman year, the representatives from IAIA came to Tuba City to make arrangements for Bahe Whitethorne to enroll, but the love Bahe had for the Walkers and vice versa, was so great, he asked Melveta Walker, now director of ENMU's Golden Library, “Do I have to go? I want to stay with you and Dad.” Of course, he could stay. Later that year, Bahe’s father died and Jerry Walker made an offer to Bahe’s mother, Alice. If she could take care of the four little girls, ages 7 to 6 months, the Walkers would take care of the four boys, ages 10 to 17 (one son was already married and away from home). They could go home on the weekends and make sure she and the girls had food, wood and water. Alice agreed and eight Whitethorne children and two Walker children had new, additional parents. That bond is still as strong after four decades as it was then.
Alice was a very talented weaver and artisan, and passed on her love for art to all nine of her children. She has passed on, but her legacy of artistic talent will live forever.
This exhibit features some of Alice’s rug and basket weaving and beadwork, a little of Melveta’s arts and crafts, and artwork of all nine Whitethornes, plus that of many of Alice’s and Melveta’s grandchildren and a great grandchild.