Opening doors through art
In the Montezuma Creek community, Georgiana Simpson is providing learning opportunities in a supportive environment. In her Whitehorse High School art class, she emphasizes reflection on personal strengths as a tool for success.
“I encourage my students to use their strengths and skills to help others,” Simpson said.
This year, Simpson inspired freshman Leyonah Endischee to use her strengths as an artist to enter the Utah State Senate Visual Arts Scholarship Competition, in which dozens of high school students statewide competed for scholarships and recognition.
Endischee used this year’s theme of “Inspired Utah” to create a piece called “Patterns of Warriors” about the Navajo Codetalkers.
Her artwork, which incorporated a style of Japanese film and television animation called anime, depicted a single code talker with an array of colors and geometric design surrounding him.
Through the piece, Endischee wanted to showcase how the Navajo Codetalkers helped during World War II while also incorporating her cultural heritage into a modern art form.
Her artwork won third place among the more than 200 submissions, and among the winning artists, she was the only Diné student.
On February 21, Endischee and 21 other artists from around the state were honored by state senators on the floor of the Utah Senate. Endischee also received a $1,000 scholarship through my529, an educational savings plan established by the state.
She said she is grateful she earned the opportunity to showcase her art skills and educate elected officials and others about the Navajo Codetalkers and the communities of Montezuma Creek and Aneth.
Endischee has been drawing all of her life, but strengthened her craft by taking Simpson’s Art Foundation class. Endishchee said she hopes people can learn to use art to relieve stress or even as a form of meditation. She remembers her late grandmother using coloring books to lower stress.
“Do what inspires you,” Endischee said she tells people wanting to create art.
Her mother, Miranda Salt, plans to display the winning artwork at home as a reminder of her daughter’s significant accomplishment. Although Endischee is still deciding what she wants to do after high school, she is considering art school or college.
In the meantime, she’s busy with her regular high school classes, art creations, and student government group.
Endischee is of the Kinłichii’nii’ (“Red House People”), born for Tábaahí (“Water’s Edge People”). Her paternal and maternal clan is Tódichii’nii’ (“Bitter Water People”). She lives in Aneth.
For more information about the Utah State Senate Visual Arts Scholarship Competition, visit artsandmuseums.utah.gov.