Radio Juxtapoz, ep 045: Chip Thomas is Telling the Story of the Navajo Nation Through Street Art
Blame (or credit) covid 19, but it’s as if, more than ever, we are attracted, and thus connected, by a good story. Many of us have spent the last 10 or so weeks attached to the news, or reports from far away places told through IG stories, and even though we may feel cloistered in place, if we seek them, there are connections to be made. In a vast terrain that comprises the 3,000 miles traversing America, there seems to be worlds within a world, countries within a country, all with experiencing ranges of interaction or isolation ... and everything in between. For one physician living in the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona, life has been an ongoing epic, but in a time of confusion and uncertainty, his life's work appears more in focus.
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This week on the Radio Juxtapoz podcast, we speak with Chip Thomas, doctor, activist, street artist, organizer and in so many ways a collective storyteller, who has spent the last 30+ years living and working in the Navajo Nation. From his early childhood years in North Carolina, attending a Quaker school in the Smoky Mountains, to medical school and eventual travels around the globe, Thomas's lifelong interest and participation in the arts has gone hand-in-hand with his work as a doctor. His practice now focuses on physical health, as he incorporates psychological health, utilizing public art as a prescription for positive mental outlook and participation with the community.
Through a career-spanning conversation, we talk about Thomas's early love of the graffiti and hip-hop scenes of NYC, a chance bike ride through Africa that inspired annual travel, discovering the potential of street art in South America and how collaborations with Icy & Sot, Monica Canilao and others have brought international art to the Four Corners region of the USA. We talk about how the coronavirus has ravaged the Navajo people and how his practice has expanded beyond his office walls. Throughout this podcast, Thomas's stories reaffirm our belief that, deep down, the implementation of the arts into daily lives creates an essential, healthy dialogue. And, simply, it creates a crucial connection to the place we live.
The Radio Juxtapoz podcast is hosted by FIFTH WALL TV's Doug Gillen and Juxtapoz editor, Evan Pricco. Episode 045 was recorded via Skype from San Francisco/London/Navajo Nation, May 9, 2020. Follow Chip Thomas at @jetsonorama