Bold, Free, Passionate, Courageous

By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015



Hailing from a long line of Native Hawaiian singers, musicians and performers on her mother’s side and Diné storytellers and medicine people on her father’s side, Heidi K Brandow is a painter and printmaker. Her work is commonly filled with whimsical characters and monsters often combined with poetry, stories, and personal reflections.

Represented by Form and Concept Gallery of Santa Fe, and by Chaco Gallery of Albuquerque, Heidi is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. She studied design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Istanbul Technical University in Turkey.

Heidi was selected for the inaugural cohort of the 2018 Story Maps Fellowship in Santa Fe, and is preparing for a pop-up show at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in August. Heidi is a 2018 Artist in Business Leadership Fellow. 


When Heidi landed in Turkey for a student exchange trip, she did not expect the warm welcome and sense of kinship with the people. Their awareness of Native people drew her into a world far from her traditional Hawai’i and Diné upbringing, yet similarities connected her to the country.

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“I love the place, the people, the land, the culture,” Heidi says. “I committed myself to keeping that relationship open over the years.”

Through her art — which draws inspiration from her cultural heritage, pop culture and critical theory — Heidi focuses on social engagement projects to meet global community needs.

“(in)dispensable” is a collaborative venture between Heidi and designer Sinem Sayar that documents individuals working in the solid waste + recycling industry in Turkey. As Heidi’s third social engagement project, it is the first time they accomplished everything planned. With experience, knowledge, and strong partnerships, the only element lacking was funding to explore the project fully. The final boost came from Heidi’s First Peoples Fund (FPF) 2018 Artist in Business Leadership program.


Her fellowship is also supporting reconfiguration and upgrades to Heidi’s art studio. “First Peoples Fund has been fundamental in allowing me to get the materials and tools I need to have a more streamlined process,” she says.


Finishing her FPF fellowship, Heidi hopes to return to Turkey this fall and produce a film of the “(in)dispensable” project.

While her day job as a retention specialist at the Institute of American Indian Arts allows Heidi to support her two boys, she is working toward a full-time career as an artist. “I believe my arts practice is a reflection of the true person I aspire to be — bold, free, passionate, and courageous.”