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Michelle Lowden (Acoma Pueblo) is a mother, well-known artist, founder and owner of Milo Creations and Eighth Generation’s first Inspired Natives Collaborator. Though she’s always centered her work around her community, Pueblo of Acoma (Aa’ku in Keres) in what is now called New Mexico, her dedication has gone even further during the pandemic as she naturally tackles the intersections of art and community support.
Milo Creations has grown tremendously since beginning in 2009 – in addition to local customers, Michelle regularly fulfills orders from as far as Canada and the United States East Coast.
“Being an Inspired Natives Collaborator has given me a broader perspective of the options out there,” Michelle says. “I trust the process.”
Most recently, her creativity has merged with community-based projects. In fact, Michelle was selected to include her traditional pottery designs and signature, vibrant colors for two new public baseball fields! The pitches will replace an older, dirt field and be ready by spring 2021. An additional business complex and patio, including more of Michelle’s geometric designs and intricate line work, will be announced later this year.
“I definitely want to represent my community in the best way I can – it was an honor to be selected!” Michelle says. She added that baseball is a popular sport among Pueblo communities and looks forward to her son playing on the field in the future if he desires.
Beyond creating art, Michelle works a full-time position as Public Information Officer/Program Coordinator for the Acoma Pueblo Tribe. She decided to put any extra income she earns into supporting other artists and nonprofit organizations providing mutual aid. She even gathered and distributed 200 activity packages – masks, toys, coloring books, crayons – for families and children in her community during lockdown.
The Pueblo of Acoma has been in lockdown for nearly a year to prevent the spread of Covid-19. That means all entrances in or out of the community are closed off except for one. Security checkpoints are in place with essential staff, and any individual wanting to enter must request access and take a Covid-19 test that comes back negative. There are also curfews in place during the weekdays and now, weekends.
“Of course, you do get irritable with having all of these restrictions,” Michelle says. “But we’ve seen the benefits in our numbers of active cases and reached a major decrease.”
Michelle and her coworkers have prioritized logistical aid during these unprecedented times. Last year beginning in May, they started an emergency food pantry where the goods Michelle helps distribute from a local market provide groceries for 600 individuals on a biweekly basis! Michelle also coordinates and shares public information regarding Covid-19 data and updates in Acoma.
Michelle says she values how she was raised and, in the best way she can, instils the teachings of putting land, animals and people first.
“Being a mother also gives me motivation to make sure I’m creating this healthy human and teaching him to take care of his community, as well,” Michelle says.
Though we’re all dealing with the pandemic and fixed in our homes, Michelle values the extra time with her two-year-old son, Naiyu. Michelle’s family is collaborating to develop a Lifebook for Naiyu that illustrates co-parenting in a healthy way. She enjoys educating others about healthy parenting and wants to pursue this passion in new, creative outlets. Check out her video on easy, at-home activities for toddlers below!
In the past, Michelle admits she believed validation for her artwork came solely from upscale art shows and museums. Collaborating with Eighth Generation has transformed that thought process.
“It has been six years [as an Inspired Natives Collaborator] but seeing the amount of product being sold still blows my mind,” Michelle says. “It motivates me and sparks my creativity for more work, while helping my creative flow.”
Whether in collaboration with Eighth Generation and her community, or creating education around parenting, stay tuned for new artwork by Michelle!