DENNIS C. NUMKENA architect, artist, designer

Born a member of the snake clan from the Hopi village of Moencopi, Dennis Numkena left the reservation shortly after his initiation ceremony in the Kiva his father maintained in their village. Seeing his youngest of four boys both academically and socially inclined, Louis Numkena Sr. gave an adolescent boy into the care of the Phoenix Indian School, one of the many government sponsored boarding schools for Native Americans. Dennis stayed until his sophomore year of high school, successfully escaping one evening across Central Avenue to the landmark golden arches of McDonald’s. With no one else to call, he contacted a teacher. She brought him home to live with her family in Scottsdale where he completed his secondary education at Scottsdale High School. His good grades and a determination for higher education landed him at the Severn Naval Academy Preparatory School, in Maryland. When trying to picture himself months at sea Numkena laughs, “What do Hopis know about sailing ships?” He enlisted into the Army and was trained in computer engineering.

At 22 years Dennis Cecil Numkena was worlds away from his village, living in New York City, standing in the Guggenheim Museum, and suddenly inspired to become an architect. Under the tutelage of his early mentor Benny Gonzales, Numkena received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from Arizona State University. In 1971, at the age of 30, he formed the first Native American owned architectural firm. The rich architectural history of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest, especially that of the Anasazi, ancestors of the Hopi, caused Numkena to dedicate himself to reinterpreting that language. All the while Numkena and Associates successfully competed for projects, not far from the drawing table, evidence of other passions poured from brushes applying bold colors to canvas. Many signature Numkena buildings also house paintings he created alongside building designs, working drawings and scale models. Art and architecture comfortably share the creative genius of Dennis’ mind.

It was in the Kiva that the boy Numkena was given his gift of art, painting Katsina masks for ceremonies, and it was at his father’s bidding that he travel to the Mayan ruins of Palenque, the “red city.” Louis Numkena Sr. may have been prophetic about his son’s path. He died many years before Dennis made the trip into the Mexican jungle, where in the mid 1990’s Numkena met the ancestors his father told him about. “It’s evident in the architecture,” he maintains. Numkena’s path, set upon him as a youth, has been far from home and yet his life’s work illustrates he’s always en route of his cultural heritage.

Dennis C. Numkena

architect, artist, designer

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Current projects

Migration Emergence; A Journey to the Fifth World, 12 murals depicting Hopi myth

Design Architect American Indian Veterans Memorial, Phoenix, Az.

Career Highlights

2002 Design for American Indian Veterans Memorial Organization, status: fund raising, to be built on the grounds of the former Indian School, Phoenix, Az.

Avikan Cultural Center and Archeological Site, Blanding, Utah, status: not yet built
Sedona Spirit Theater, status: not yet built
St. Bridget’s Parish Center, Mesa, Az
Anasazi Condominiums and Office Park, award winning design, Paradise Valley, Az.

Numkena & Associates, Inc. formed. Designed over 25 projects on the reservations of
the Southwest, including The Yavapai Apache Cultural Center, Verde Valley, Az and the Pyramid Lake Museum, Nevada, which are featured in the recent book, “Contemporary Native American Architecture”

2001 60th Birthday Retrospective Career Exhibition, Grady Gammage Auditorium, ASU

2000 Multiple Private commissions

1996 Commence mural project depicting Hopi creation mythology. Projected are twelve 7’ x 7’ canvases, for museum exhibition, "Migration <> Emergence: Journey to the Fifth World"

1995 "The Journey Begins", exhibition, Taliesen West, Scottsdale, Az., paintings, sculpture and jewelry.

1994 Emergence to the Fifth World,” 7’ x 18’ mural, current collection of St. Mary’s Pharmaceuticals, Tucson, Az.

1993 Mural, Northern Arizona University, School of Forestry, 23' x 10', two-sided.

1992 One-man show, career retrospective. Stetter Gallery, Phoenix, Az.

1990 One-man show Stetter Gallery, Phoenix, Az. Monotypes.*

1984 ASU College of Law, suspended two-sided mural.

1983 "Spirits & Dreams", Monotype exhibition, Scottsdale, Az. produced with Sharokh Rezvani, Telos Graphics, and Sette Publishing. 63 images, sold out.

1977 Heard Museum, Phoenix, Az. 4-man show: Alan Houser, Fritz Scholder, Dan Namingha, & Dennis Numkena.


1991-present Cowboys on Mars, Bob Gately’s space operetta, stage, sets, and costume designs

1987 Papal stage and overhead murals for Pope John Paul II's audience with Native Americans, Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Sept. 14.

1985 Theatrical design, stage, sets and costumes for ASU's Lyric Opera Company performance Janacek's, "The Cunning Little Vixen."

1982 Second production of ASU's lyric Opera Company's, Mozart's "The Magic Flute," filmed for National television by PBS

1977 First Native American to create theatrical design, stage, sets & costumes, for Mozart's "The Magic Flute," performed by ASU's Lyric Opera Company, Tempe, Az.

Additional Experience

2000 Architectural Lecture Tour , Moscow & Eastern Europe

1997 Architectural Lecture Tour "Ancients to the Moderns: The Anasazi to Frank Lloyd Wright", Northern Europe, (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Copenhagen, Germany)

1989 Review Panel for design of National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.

1975-79 Board of Trustees, Heard Museum, Phoenix, Az.

"Numkena Architects was formed in 1971 and decided to concentrate on providing

architectural services for the Indian tribes throughout the Southwest. Over the years, the firm explored the cultural histories of many Indian tribes in order to properly respond to the architectural needs of that particular tribe. The architectural process required the interaction with many governmental agencies and their various needs, but keeping in mind the real requirements of our Indian clients. There were times when we made presentations to the Senate and House in Washington, D.C. on behalf of our clients."

Following is a partial list of other Indian projects undertaken by Numkena Architects not listed in the "Highlights" of this resume.

Canyon Records, Phoenix, Az.

Casa Blanca K-5 Elementary School, Gila River, Az.

H:ualapai Trading Post, Peach Springs, Az.

Kaibab Private Gymnasium, Nevada

Hopi Administrative Building, Arizona

Hopi Housing, Arizona

Navajo Clinic, Arizona

Salt River Baseball Park/Recreation Center, Arizona

San Carlos Recreation Center, Arizona

Fort McDowell Gymnasium, Arizona

Fort McDowell Tribal Center

Navajo Lake Powell Master Plan Study, Arizona

(Resort/Museum/Marina/Golf Course)

Pyramid Lake Museum, Nevada

Walker River Housing, Nevada

Yerrington Housing, Nevada

Hoopa Trading Post/Cabins, California

Dennis Numkena has produced numerous one man exhibits and has been featured in several books, periodicals, and televised interviews. For more information please contact, Sharon Stetter, agent at P.O. Box 32505, Phoenix, Az. 85064-2505..