Toma Villa is a muralist, painter, carver, and sculptor from the Yakama Nation.
I am a fisherman and native artist currently specializing in murals. I came to what I do now from being a graffiti artist, a self-taught carver and art schooling in college. The whole idea of graffiti art is to be original. You have to push your limits with what you are going to create. To steal other styles or someone’s color work you are quickly labeled as a ‘biter’ or a thief. I am from the Yakama Nation. I get ideas from native art but I really push myself to get original style. Bridge building, creating bonds through project work and others learning about art move me to share my culture, history and self with students.
Creating art together creates a sense of responsibility, shared ownership and community that is often lacking in kids’ lives. During our shared time, students gain a sense of belonging and ownership. Within a community, when they are part of it, kids take on the ownership. I go to a school but I may never return there again but it’s the community at school that takes the ownership.
A lot of people romanticize about Natives. I come in as a graffiti artist, not as a traditional native person. The whole idea of art is that it is an expression of who that person is and how they express themselves through tools, murals, carving or traditional beading or basketry. By working together, I want kids to change the way they may see me and the judgments they may have about me. I want kids to know who I am as an artist and be inspired by that to do their own thing. Kids shouldn’t be scared to try something new. I hope they develop more open minds so they can reflect back on what they develop and out of what they create from that point on.