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Spreading Paint — and Knowledge


The Monument Valley Learning Center surrounded by world famous red bluffs and buttes was looking a little less than world famous inside.

It could use some sprucing up, said some of the nearby residents to Georgiana Simpson, Utah State University Eastern Blanding Campus ImPACT (Improving Preparation, Access & Communities Together) coordinator, when she was attending one of their Navajo chapter meetings last spring.

 Monument Valley is one of eight learning centers in the Four Corners region operated under the auspices of USU Eastern Blanding.

Simpson took their suggestion to heart and then some. If they are going to paint the walls, why not create some meaningful designs in the process? Her inspiration was a beautiful Navajo Nazlini corn rug in her possession that was woven more than 60 years ago.

“In Navajo traditional ways, corn symbolizes human life,” she said.  

Quoting Navajo historian Harry Walters: "Just as the corn disseminates its pollen for the continuation of corn plants, so too humans have been entrusted with sacred responsibility to disseminate their knowledge for the benefit and continuation of future generations."

She showed the rug to Ed Larson, USU Eastern NASNTI (Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institutions Grant) staff and he came up with a concept blending Navajo elements with university design elements to demonstrate the dissemination of knowledge.  

“Ed created a beautiful corn motif which became the design anchor for the staff painting project,” she said.

With the colors selected and the design in place, staff from USU Eastern Blanding Campus and Monument Valley grabbed their paintbrushes and participated in the day-long service project. Participants included Simpson, Larson, Shilo Martinez, Stephanie Atkinson, Heidi Swenson, Vivian Todachinnie, Emilio Todachinnie, Jay Jones and his son, Gavin; Don Mose and his son, Zachery.

“It was a fun day of painting that has resulted in a reorganized and refreshed center for our neighbors in Monument Valley,” Simpson said.


Writer: John DeVilbiss,