FLAGSTAFF MOUNTAIN LIVING MAGAZINE
IN SERVICE TO THE MUSE
article and interview with Betsy Bruner and Raechel Running
This is an expanded reflection based on Betsy's questions for the article with a bit more of my thoughts about the influence of the women on my art and life.
Sledding down the hill in the 1960s from the top of
Birch Street to downtown, artist Raechel Running said children under five didn’t worry about being hit by a car in those days. Running, 46, whose father is the well-regarded photographer John Running, was born and raised in a smaller Flagstaff, but today she has a global consciousness seasoned by five years of living part time in Casas Grandes in . Chihuahuaha, Mexico
She has established an international reputation for her photography, graphic design, writing, filmmaking and activism about border issues and immigration, the environment and land stewardship.Her early interest in art was sparked by her cultural environment, which included two creative parents and their equally creative friends, including a number of inspiring women.
“If we’re looking at the women who have influenced my artistic development, it started with my mother, Helen Lau Running,” Running recalled. “She taught me to create art a very young age,at the k itchen table, crafting the home with interesting people, and taking us kids out to have many diverse experiences.” Helen came from the island of Trinidad when she was 19 and felt right at home here. When I was twelve she collaborated on a book written by Kathy Hooker, ' Time Amongst the Navajo' that went on to win is still used in classrooms today. " Mom, I discovered at a community garden potluck this past fall that she was one of the first members of the first community gardens back in the day - I was so proud of her as I saw families and beautiful food shared - I see how the movement is growing and is helping to change the world to a healthier and happier place. "
Women living in the Flagstaff area who had a strong impact on her growing up included Sue Bennett, photographer; Ann Zwinger, artist and natural history author ; Dr.Kaye, Dance Ethnologist and Rosemary Jobowski, teacher of the Flagstaff School of Ballet; art teachers, Anne Kramer and Barbara Vanderbeck ; and Phyllis Hogan, ethno-botoinst and owner of Winter Sun Trading Company. "Most were single moms raising kids and doing their thing bringing us kids along for the ride following their dreams; Those experiences shaped our lives. " Running reflects smiling, "They took us to the symphony and modern dances ; they played Linda Rondstadt, Broadway Musicals and Pow Wow music; drove VW bugs, had eccentric friends who lived in Tee Pees; The Moms took us camping and made us eat whole wheat bread,ride your bicycle and play outside - it wasn't the Partridge Family but we sure weren't parked in front of the TV.
It was 'weird' back then but when we went out into the world we realized we were prepared and what an amazing world they had exposed us to. They were Awesome !
“Phyllis bought my first photograph and gave me my first photography job when I was 15. We still collaborate on projects.I am more inspired to learn about Native cultures, the arts, and the value of plants since I've been in Mexico. The connections through Phyllis's ethno-botanical passions she shared with me since I was a teenager are at the root of my current interests in my borderland work. Ancient traders and artists help shaped the cultures that are the southwest for thousands of years. I am developing my own skin care line with her daughter Denise, of Super Salve - Botanicas Americas inspired by the migrations and plants of the Americas which I'm really excited about. ” she said.
Spending her childhood years in the South Side and downtown was an exciting diverse community. There was the local color; the Natives, with the Blacks and the Mexicans,” she said. “We had these groovy hippie baby-sitters who were artists, kept diaries, played music, rode their bikes, ran the river, read cool books, and ate organic food in the ‘70s."
As a frontier town,
has always attracted people, including women, who were looking for creative challenges.“It’s about women who were drawn west and were captivated by the arts and landscape,” Running observed. “They are examples of adventurous spirits and minds. These women lived in Flagstaff , but they had this great interest in the world.” Flagstaff
"The women made Flagstaff an extended family that exists to this day. I think they bridged art and nurtured our communities. They co-created a bigger sense of Home. They were courageous and true to themselves.They were fiercely independent as well as passionate about what we ate and taking care of the planet ; inclusivity and diversity; and doing your part with heart against the odds. Everybody has to support each other and raise us to be curious and engaged with life and cultivated our interests.Their art and lives exemplify the Spirit of the west. I am grateful for growing up here at the foot of the Sacred Mountain which I believe needs our stewardship more than ever because of what I was taught as a kid - as in art as in life ! "