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The Painted Desert – Pandemic As Portal

Chip Thomas

Navajo Nation, Arizona, USA

Chip Thomas proposes a public art campaign to address the healthcare emergency among Arizona’s Navajo Nation, which occupies portions of Northeastern Arizona, Southeastern Utah and Northwestern New Mexico. In the wake of hundreds of years of systemic oppression, the Navajo have been disproportionately affected by mental health issues such as obesity, diabetes and suicide. Now, they face an unprecedented existential threat, with the pandemic claiming the lives of their Elders — custodians  of their oral history — and much of the younger generation struggling to preserve their culture. Faced with this emergency, Chip leads a collective of local artists to address the threat head-on through a public art campaign. Collaborating with the community, they attempt to reach the Navajo people directly, and present a path forward — in order to rekindle the f