Baje Whitethorne Sr. Honored with Spirit of the Heard Award

For Immediate Release: November 19, 2019

PHOENIX, ARIZ. – On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, Baje Whitethorne Sr. was recognized with the Spirit of the Heard award at this years’ Phoenix Indian Center’s Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards dinner which was held at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch. Baje was celebrated for his work as founder and contributor to Art of the People (AOP), a collective of indigenous artists striving to share the heart story of Navajo religion, philosophy and way of life through live-painting demonstrations. Established in 2013, AOP would work together to create artwork for the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, 10 murals in 10 days project. Their work would continue to elevate their respective communities and encourage emerging artists to keep creating.

The Heard Museum Board of Trustees established the Spirit of the Heard award in 2004 to recognize excellence in community-based contributions by Native individuals. “We are deeply honored to bestow this award upon you [Baje] for your tireless efforts in art education and children’s literacy, Heard Museum Director and CEO David Roche said. “Your longstanding commitment to excellence in the arts as an author, illustrator, educator, and a passionate public servant to the Navajo people is an impressive model for other artists.”

Each year, the Heard Museum’s Board of Trustees honors an individual who has exhibited personal excellence in his or her life either individually or as a community leader working on behalf of American Indian people in an area consistent with the mission of the Heard Museum. “I’m deeply appreciative and very humbled to receive this award on behalf of AOP,” Baje said.

“It was a simple concept but one that had meaningful impact on the artists of the future, the younger ones. They need us to help guide them, or share business know-how and we need them to continue to inspire us with their passion and desire to make art for the generations to come after us.”

Baje continues to work as founder of AOP but he will also be dedicating some time to a new foundation he and his wife Priscilla Whitethorne co-founded after the recent passing of their older son, Bahe “Buddy” Whitethorne Jr. The Buddy Whitethorne Foundation will work to provide scholarship and mentorship opportunities to keep Buddy’s memory alive and to give hope and encouragement to emerging artists. Baje hopes to emulate the success of AOP with his latest endeavor. To learn more about Art of the People, visit the website at

About the Buddy Whitethorne Foundation:
Our Mission: The Foundation honors the life and legacy of Navajo artist Buddy Whitethorne (1977-2018) through encouragement and support for young Native American careers in the arts. In addition to financial support, all recipients will receive mentoring from noted artists and organizations with significant profiles in the Native American Arts. Mentoring will include artistic applications as well as business fundamentals.


Candace Marie Hamana
Director of Communications
Buddy Whitethorne Foundation