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If you go
What: Bunky Echo-Hawk, Modern Indian Identity
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: UMC, Glenn Miller Ballroom
Cost: Free

Contemporary, Native American artist Bunky Echo-Hawk is planning to complete his next painting on Thursday evening. 

However, with less than 48 hours to go, he has no plans for the design of his piece.

The painting will likely include bright, vibrant colors and an obvious connection to Echo-Hawk’s Native American heritage — both staples of the artist’s style — but the message remains unknown, even to the painter. 

“I have no idea what I’m going to paint, I never plan it,” Echo-Hawk said.

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University of Colorado‘s University Memorial Center, Echo-Hawk will transform a blank canvas into a contemporary work of art inspired by dialogue with the audience.

“I interpret their (the audience’s) sentiment onto canvas,” Echo-Hawk said. “My only rule is it can’t be fake. We will talk about issues the community I’m in is facing and that renders itself onto canvas.”

The presentation is part of the Modern Indian Identity Series hosted by CU’s Center of the American West.

Kurt Gutjahr, program director for the Center of the American West, said involving the audience into Echo-Hawk’s presentations brings a unique dynamic.

“It’s a great opportunity to see blending of art and thought,” Gutjahr said. “So often we look at it in a museum and here it’s much more dynamic and involved and interactive.”

Echo-Hawk said the audience becomes part of the painting, which will be left with the CU department after it is finished. Gutjahr said they have not decided where the painting will be displayed.

Live art, as he calls it, is a rush for Echo-Hawk, who said he is inspired by the impromptu discussion, often including personal anecdotes about his heritage.

“When I was a little guy, my dad would sit me in his lap after he was done reading the newspaper and he would take a Sharpie and he would create stories for me,” Echo-Hawk said. “He would draw on the pages of the newspaper making a comic book out of these line drawings and illustrations.”

Echo-Hawk said the stories peaked an interest in his heritage from a young age. Today, he said his Native American culture shapes most of his art and his life.

Painting is only a small piece of Echo-Hawk’s artistic career. He writes plays, poetry — and most recently, music. Echo-Hawk is hoping to release his first album in the fall, including collaborations with other Native American musicians and writers.

Echo-Hawk is working with Nike on a design for their new line and still finds time to work with Native American organizations to help empower youth and educate other cultures about his heritage.

Echo-Hawk is a member of the Yakama Nation and the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. He moved to Boulder as a kid, where he graduated from September High School.

After graduating from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Echo-Hawk attended CU for a semester, taking classes mostly in the English department.

Two Photographs of Echo-Hawk’s paintings can be found in the permanent history exhibit at the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center, including his piece “If Yoda Was An Indian” — a profile of the famous “Star Wars” character wearing a Native American headdress.

Erik Mason, curator of research for the museum, said Echo-Hawk’s work “speaks about the contemporary diversity of Native Americans.”

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