Native artist donates merch sales to local foundation

FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. — While Jackson is just a short drive away from the country’s fifth-largest American Indian Reservation, the distance between Teton County’s Native history and Wyoming’s contemporary Native residents can feel insurmountable.

Fremont County artist Robert Martinez is helping bridge that divide through art. A portion of sales from County 10 merchandise featuring his artwork will benefit the Wind River Foundation, a Jackson-based organization that empowers indigenous communities on the Wind River Reservation.

Martinez is a Chicano and Northern Arapaho man born on the Wind River Reservation in Riverton. He is a contemporary artist — and contemporary is the operative word here. Martinez’s work combines classic native imagery with contemporary themes and cues. One of his prints for County 10, for example, features an older Native man wearing over-ear headphones. Another features a classic-looking cowboy pointing an iPhone like a gun. The elements of past and present serve as a reminder that Native people are not just historical figures. They are modern-day people with modern-day issues and identities.

“It challenges people’s perceptions of Native people,” Martinez said.

Will Hill, General Manager at County 10 (formerly Buckrail’s sister news site in Fremont County, now independently owned), knew he wanted to support local artists when he took over the news outlet.

Robert Martinez’s “Cowboy.” Photo courtesy County 10

“We have this struggle in Fremont County that we think art is really great, but we’re not really willing to pay for it,” Hill said.

So when Hill decided to sell County 10 merch, it seemed like the perfect platform to invite — and pay — local artists.

Hill and Martinez took it one step further. Local artists would get paid for their designs to be featured on County 10 swag — t-shirts, tote bags, sweatshirts, etc. But a fraction of the proceeds from those designs would also benefit a nonprofit of the artist’s choosing.

“It’s a great way to support two different segments in the community,” Hill said.

For Martinez, choosing a nonprofit wasn’t difficult. “There aren’t many places that support the Wind River Reservation,” he said. The Wind River Foundation is one of the only, and certainly the biggest.

Giving back is built into Martinez’s business model as an artist. When he’s not creating, Martinez is working to uplift other Native artists in his hometown and beyond. He’s a member of the Northern Arapaho Artist Society, which seeks out venues for Native artists to showcase their work. He’s also a member of the Creative Indigenous Collective, which works to elevate indigenous artists on a larger, more regional scale.

Most recently, Martinez was recongized by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon as one of five Governor’s Arts Award recipients.

“The service and talent you provide to Wyoming is immeasurable,” Gordon wrote in a letter to Martinez.

Check out Martinez’s designs and the entire “Inthe10” merch line here. Another fun fact: the sales software County 10 is using to sell merchandise is based in Cheyenne.

Follow Robert Martinez online, on Instagram, and on Facebook.

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