John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum (Page, AZ)

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Robert Mirabal brought his blend of Native-American and contemporary music to the John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum in Page, Arizona. Photo by Andrew Flack

Dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history of the Colorado Plateau and native cultures, the John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum was founded in 1969 by a group of local citizens in Page, Arizona. Inspired by Major John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran who was one of the first to travel the length of the Colorado River, the museum works with the Page Tourism Board and the Page- Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce to highlight Native-American history through exhibits and outreach programs.

On October 6, 2007, the Powell Museum hosted a performance for the northern Arizona community by Robert Mirabal and his band. The Powell Museum received an NEA Challenge America grant of $10,000 to present this multimedia event, which attracted more than 250 people. Robert Mirabal is known for fusing Native-American music with modern influences. For the Powell Museum concert he and the Rare Tribal Mob used chanting, native dancers, cellos, aboriginal didgeridoos, flutes, percussion, and other world instruments to blend native rhythmic approaches with modern musical influences. In a desire to reach out to students, the concert was held downtown on the Page High School campus, and free tickets were provided to students at six area schools, a large number of whom come from the Navajo reservation— in fact, 22 percent of the audience for Mirabal’s performance, both students and adults, were Native Americans.

Lee Pulsaki, the editor of the local newspaper, Lake Powell Chonicle, commented, “It doesn’t seem possible that a community with 7,000 people could bring shows like these here.” The NEA grant allowed the Powell Museum to reach out to the community in a way that they would not otherwise have had the resources to do, and in return, they found that the community is becoming more aware and appreciative of these art programs.

(From the NEA 2007 Annual Report)