Reflecting on the upcoming Community Spirit Awards

This summer, Lori Pourier, president of First Peoples Fund, sat down for a discussion with Jody Naranjo Folwell-Turipa, one of this year's Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards honorees. Here, Lori reflects on their time together in Santa Clara as she prepares to welcome this year's four honorees to the First Peoples Fund family this weekend.

Her work has broken so many barriers. In her community, and in the Indigenous art world.

She is a women, a grandmother, a mother, and a sister.

She is an artist, a potter, and an activist.

She is—in my humble opinion—the very essence of Collective Spirit.

And it is the quiet things she does within her community, and in her studio in Santa Clara, New Mexico, that have inspired new generations of potters within her family, and her tribe. For this—and more—Jody Naranjo Folwell-Turipa (Santa Clara/Tewa) will be honored with a 2014 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award from First Peoples Fund.

"Leadership is about people who are selflessly giving of themselves because they know it is the right thing to do," she said to me in her home earlier this summer. "My great-grandparents and parents taught me from a very young age that, with all your heart and with all your soul, you should always reach out and help others."

To sit across Jody—to listen to her speak her truth, her experiences, her passion and her strength, was so moving to me. In fact, it was enchanting.

"Pottery is the most magical way of communication," she said as she recalled a turning point in her life that awakened her to the power art has on community. "I was sitting in an underground home at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colorado, teaching students. We sat in semi-dark, mixing the clay, and could sense the spiritual effect that the act of creating was having on us. We were one unit as we sat mixing the clay. The quiet gave way to sharing stories."

Art, you see, was creating a collective community.

Jody inherited her family's tradition of pottery making as a child, first sculpting traditional blackware and redware, progressing to clay, and culminating today into cutting edge modern, fine art ceramics. She continues to dig her own clay, where it is then coil-built, stone polished and fired.

"But before we dig, we pray, and thank the Clay Mother for giving us the earth, our ability to create pots, and hopefully, our ability to sell our work to take care of ourselves, our families, and our community," she said.

Jody was the first female potter ever to win Best of Show at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Her artwork, which is a balance of traditional and contemporary, often touches on political or social events and issues.

"I believe that if you are going to devote your life to being a fine artist, then you have to have the courage to make unique contributions to the world," she noted. "No issue is too big to address."

To me, that is what sets her apart. She not only continues the legacy of traditional Pueblo pottery, but she also breaks down stereotypes about contemporary Native art. She is not afraid to speak a narrative through her artwork—about social justice and current events—that has broken new ground for artists in and outside her community.

That tradition has also been passed down to her children and grandchildren. Her two daughters—Susan and Polly—are both potters today who are forging their own path. Jody told me that they are going beyond anything she could ever dream of doing herself.

A big smile—pride, I think—came across her face in that moment.

"They have been given this ability to create from the generations and generations and generations of potters that have come before them," Jody said. "They are the continuation of this work, and our traditions."

Perhaps most especially, they have been given this gift because a Pueblo woman—their mother—opened doors that have kept centuries-old traditions, and a rich culture, alive.

"We are made of clay, we live through clay, and one day, we will return to clay," she said. "That is the whole process of human nature—not just for Pueblo potters, but for everyone in this world. It connects us."

The Community Spirit Awards will be held on Saturday, October 18 at The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. Tickets start at just $25 and are available online here.