Buddy Tubinaghtewa

One of Buddy Tubinaghtewa’s talents is creating skateboard art. (Photo courtesy city of Litchfield Park)

Hopi artist Buddy Tubinaghtewa calls himself a “people person.” So, he’s looking forward to showing his piece Sun Blessings, as the acrylic-on-canvas work was selected the official poster artwork for the 27th annual Litchfield Park Gathering.

“I’m a people person,” said Tubinaghtewa of Phoenix. “I like to mingle and joke around. I do a lot of powwows.”

From world champion hoop dancers to internationally renowned storytellers and tricksters to award-winning musicians, the event offers a diverse lineup of performers and entertainers on Saturday, January 12, and Sunday, January 13, in the center of the city.

Artist booths will line Old Litchfield Road south of Wigwam Boulevard as well as across the lawn of the Litchfield Park Library, 101 W. Wigwam Boulevard, and on the nearby Gazebo lawn. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

The festival is free and continues a tradition of celebrating Native American heritage through the arts with active teaching, demonstrations and presentations throughout the weekend.

The Gathering features artists and artisans displaying and selling diverse artwork including traditional and contemporary beadwork, clothing, jewelry, paintings and prints, pottery, sculptures and weaving, basketry, carvings and glass art. 

Cultural Arts will be reflected in classical guitar, clothing and Navajo rugs, quilts, rock art, Wampum shells, bows and arrows, sand art, rattles and fetish carvings.

Tubinaghtewa applies his Native American themes and skills to create skateboard decks that have been part of Pivot: Skateboard Deck Art at the Museum of Northern Arizona through March 31. It features nearly 100 art pieces on skateboards.

One of his decks will be raffled at the Litchfield Park Gathering.

“I’m super excited about being there,” Tubinaghtewa said. “I’m overwhelmed. When the economy crashed, I took a break from art. I was working full time in construction painting.

“I hurt my back and started picking up the brushes and carving tools again. Things started picking up, but everything’s so different. So many things have changed with the internet.”

Tubinaghtewa asked to participate in last year’s Litchfield Park Gathering, but missed the deadline. This year, he couldn’t believe he was accepted.

“I was in Mexico at a show and Trish called and asked if I checked my email,” he said about Litchfield Park special events coordinator, Trish Kramer. “I checked it and I was overwhelmed.

“I went through an ugly period in my life but put it behind me. I said I’m going to get off the pity pot and just focus on positive stuff. I thought it was my last chance to shine. However, my skateboards are on display in Flagstaff.”

Tubinaghtewa explained he enjoys focusing on his art, especially because the accolades are rolling in. Galleries around the state are interested in him.

Tubinaghtewa, who was born in Phoenix 56 years ago, moved to the Hopi Reservation as a child to live with his late grandfather, Stewart Tubinaghtewa. He attended Phoenix Indian High School and then moved to Utah. He returned to the Valley in his 30s. He has become a sort of mentor for fellow artists.

“Some of these up-and-coming artists ask a lot of questions,” he said. “They want to know a lot of things. They can’t duplicate my work, but I want to reach out to the younger generation.

“You’re on the right path if you choose art. My son, Travis, is my shadow. He’s made his own name now. I don’t want him to be known as ‘Buddy’s son.’ I want people to say his name. He’s been recognized with student art awards.”

Tubinaghtewa calls his other son, Lance, a “save the Earth guy,” who recently won the Arizona Conservation Corps’ Corpsmember of the Year.

“I’m very proud,” he said. “I have very respectful kids. Some guys their age are having kids and not taking care of them. They don’t want to do that. They’re very respectful.”