Designing a New Way of Thinking
August 30, 2021

Designing a New Way of Thinking

First Peoples Fund welcomes Heidi K. Brandow (Diné & Kānaka Maoli) as the new Communications Manager!

Brandow is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, whose work is centered on the inclusion of Indigenous people and perspectives in the development of ethical and sustainable methods of creative engagement. She is co-founder of the Harvard Indigenous Design Collective, which supports the education and work of Indigenous architects, planners, designers, scholars, allies, and alumni of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where Brandow earned her Master of Design Studies.

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1. Heidi K. Brandow. Image provided by Heidi. 2. “Valleys” (2019) by Heidi K. Brandow. Image courtesy from the artist.

While Brandow considers herself a visual artist more than a designer, she admits her artmaking process is nontraditional. “I realized that art and design are a perfect marriage,” says Brandow, who was featured on the Design Voice Podcast. “Because where art asks the questions, I think design opposes the answers.”

Brandow is also an advocate in social justice. While studying Industrial Design at Istanbul Technical University, Brandow co-led an art-project that documented the solid waste and recycling industry in Turkey. The (in)dispensable Project revealed the harsh day-to-day lives of individuals working in the solid waste industry.

Human trafficking and unsafe working conditions were some of the everyday threats these workers faced. “I always have this intention of thinking how I can apply my experience and energy towards uplifting not only Navajo Nation or Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) people,” said Brandow on the Design Voice Podcast. “But for Native people at large,” including kağıt toplayıcı (or garbage collectors) in Turkey.

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In May 2021, Brandow led a community lecture called Decolonial Curatorial Praxis & Community Engagement. In her lecture, Brandow challenges museums, including her alma mater Harvard University,  on their unethical collection practices. In recent decades, academic institutions and museums have been called out for gathering artifacts without consent from the communities they steal from. But Brandow is changing that.

“We hope to initiate a different type of thinking,” says Brandow.

As Communications Manager, Brandow is excited to elevate the mission of First Peoples Fund, where she plans to execute communication strategies that will advance Native artists and cultural bearers across the nation.

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