Artisans & Tourism

Written by: Jacqueline Robledo, Content & Social Media Coordinator, AIANTA

Lillian Pitt Public Artwork, River Guardian

There are many different motivations for travelers when choosing their next vacation destination. Some travel for food, some culture or landscape and some for art. 

According to a study by Americans for the Arts, 35.3 million adults say that an art or cultural heritage-related event influenced their choice of destination, and the arts are the fourth largest driver of decision making when planning a trip. This is why art should be an important component for cultural tourism planners. 

The pairing of arts and culture with tourism can lead to economic development by bringing visitors in, while also contributing to community wellbeing. This remains true for all tourism businesses, but it may be even easier for tribal tourism to implement art into their tourism enterprises than non-tribal tourism enterprises. 

It is commonly said that the arts are so entwined with Native American communities that many Native languages don’t even have a word for “art.” And in many tribes, artisans directly support their community and its people. 

Art Trails/Art Walks 

Art walks are a great way to direct people through your community supporting other local businesses and marketing venues that may need reviving in the community.

The Hopi Arts Trail is an arts experience that connects visitors with some of the finest artists on the Hopi Mesas in Northern Arizona. The Hopi people have inhabited villages on these mesas for more than a thousand years and have one of the most uniquely preserved cultures in America. The Arts Trail is an invitation to visit the mesas and discover the Hopi culture through the arts. 

Visitors are invited to explore the reservation using the Arts Trail Map, a curated guide that leads guests through the Hopi reservation’s art scene and provides contacts for artists on the trail. 

At the Zuni Pueblo ArtWalk, Zuni Pueblo artists open their workshops and home studios for visitors to experience the culture and traditions of authentic indigenous art. Zuni Pueblo has more than 7,000 artists supporting their community, and when you purchase an authentic piece of Zuni art it directly supports the Pueblo and its people.

Gift Shops

Implementing local artisans work in your gift shops is an easy way to not only support your artisans but also help boost your tribe’s economy. 

Nez Perce Traditions is a gift shop located on the Nez Perce Reservation with an emphasis on “shop local, shop Native, shop online.” Traditions Gift Shop was created to bring back the trade hub legacy of the Nez Perce people and to generate income for local families. 

NOTE: It is important to note authentic vs. inauthentic art when purchasing from all tribal tourism enterprises to ensure you are supporting the tribes and their people and not larger enterprises. 

Food and Art 

Bringing food and art together is an excellent way to bring the tourists in. For restaurant owners, their main goal is serving great traditional food and drinks, but they also recognize they can enhance their visitors’ dining experiences by offering art forms people can enjoy while dining, such as music and visual arts. Restaurants can also offer guests their own cultural cooking experiences. 

The Indian Pueblo Kitchen is an example of a cultural tourism enterprise that is not only delicious, but packed with art experiences. Located in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the restaurant is surrounded by art and indigenous learning experiences. The Kitchen also provides visitors lessons on indigenous cooking techniques and the cultural center offers live events showcasing cultural dance, prayer and song, so guests may indulge in the traditions of the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico. 

Native American Art Market and Festivals

Art markets can help bring income into your community quickly and effectively. Bringing local vendors and artists together in one collective area in the community is sure to draw in locals and visitors. 

Each August, the historic city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, becomes the Santa Fe Indian Market, enveloping the town’s central Plaza and surrounding streets. Hundreds of gallery openings, art shows and related events take place during the weekend of Indian Market and during the two weeks immediately preceding it. Indian art collectors and artists from around the world make the pilgrimage to Santa Fe — whether they intend to buy or not. The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) sponsors the event, which is estimated to bring more than 115,000 people and over $160 million in revenues to the state and region.

Performing Arts

Bring your culture to life through performing arts. The performing arts are a great way to connect people both physically and emotionally and showcase your cultures customs and traditions through song, dance, poetry, instrumental performances and more. 

Redhawk Native American Arts Council performing artists have been educating students and delighting audiences all across the world. Traditional dances and stories are combined to entertain and excite, while providing visitors the opportunity to experience Native culture. Performing arts can also mean cultural speakers and storytellers. RNAAC lists cultural presenters who will provide lectures and demonstrations. The presenters are also available to speak to tour groups.

Public Art

Public art is a simple way to bring visitors to your community, and although often times viewing is free, it could lead to economic benefits elsewhere in the community. Brining visitors in is the first step, encouraging them to stay with other offered attractions and benefits is the next!

Lillian Pitt is a Native American artists who creates public art that depicts Native American culture and heritage.

“I hope that my large-scale art installations will cause people to wonder and learn about the Native peoples. In particular, about Native people who lived throughout the Pacific Northwest region.

I want my art to teach people. I want people to enjoy the art. But more important, I want the art to stimulate people into wanting to know more about the history of my ancestors and the contributions they made to this world.”

—Lillian Pitt