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Fernando Charley, 16, right, helps Chynna LeValdo, 17, string her loom during the first day of Native Youth Art Camp at San Juan College on Monday.
FARMINGTON — A dozen Native American high school students sat in a room, concentrating hard on the beginning of a small loom in front of them.

Dozens of seemingly tangled strings loosely connected two wooden poles that would be the basis for a rug they will weave later. Native music played softly in the background as Lorraine Begay Manavi paced the room, assisting the students with the net of yarn before them.

Rug weaving was the first form of art introduced to the students on Monday's schedule for the second annual Native Youth Art Camp at San Juan College. Techniques and rug designs were taught by Manavi, San Juan's Navajo language and rug weaving instructor.

"I like it," Fernando Charley, 16, a Piedra Vista High School student, said about the course. Although, rug weaving is not his main art form, he enjoyed the session.

"Being in this camp gives me guidance," Charley said.

It would help him broaden and add more American Indian style to his photography.

After high school, Charley plans to go to an art college in New York.

Fellow Piedra Vista student, Sonsee'rea Sells, 17, does all sorts of art, and enjoys photography more. But, she said that being in the art camp encourages her more to be an artist.

In the camp she is, "exposed to more art," Sells said, and it will help with her future career.

Another student from Piedra Vista, Chynna LeValdo, 17, likes the variety of art that she is introduced to at the camp.

She is trying to incorporate her art with other Native American art, LeValdo said.


With her interest in photography as well, LeValdo likes to take black-and-white pictures of musical instruments. She also plays the guitar.

The rug weaving session continues for four to five more hours, when "they should have about an inch or two by the end of the day," said Manavi. She was teaching the students how to do the "basic stuff," squares and diagonals. Manavi also teaches the students some of the oral history of the rug and the symbolism of the rug designs, the tools and the loom.

During their lunch break, the young artists moved to a room where nachos and tacos were served. They ate quietly, still a little shy and getting their first chance to interact with each other.

"I learned something," said Robrenda Alsbury, 17, from Aztec High School. Her interest is in painting with oil and pastels.

"It's something (rug weaving) I've never done before," Alsbury, who comes from a somewhat traditional family, said.

The reason she came to the camp was to expand the artistic values of her culture, she said.

That is the initial motive for the start of this camp, said Cindy McNealy, gallery coordinator.

"For them (the artists) to get in touch with their cultural arts," McNealy said, "the Native American culture is just amazing and it's so diverse, there's so much art and beauty in it and we want them to be aware of that."

The camp's mission also is to provide direction for the young artists and instruction on how they could go about making a career in art, McNealy said.

"There's plenty of ways to have an art career," she said about the students who were discouraged early on in their interest. "A lot of them are told that you can't make a living in art, and that's just not true."

Art teachers from local high schools shared the same view and selected a few of their motivated art students, who are taking part in the camp now, for recommendation.

They were then scheduled for an interview and members of the Native Youth Art Camp took a look at their portfolios.

Recommendations can come from any schools in the area.

"We try to reach out as far as possible," said Manavi about the participation they are getting. "We're improving every year."

Today, the students are on a field trip to sculptor Oreland Joe's studio in Kirtland and have a session with pot maker Carmelita Topaha. Wednesday, they have a session with Venaya Yazzie on mixed media and painting. Thursday, they have an acrylic painting session with James Joe and basket weaving with Topaha. Friday, the Native Youth Camp will take a trip to Santa Fe and then to Taos for various museums, galleries and studios. 

The students have a chance to exhibit their work that is completed during the camp, Wednesday, Aug. 1, at the San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Center Art Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m.