NAU artist develops national reputation


Matagi Sorensen, who graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, captures imaginations around the world. A rising star as a silversmith, designer, and printmaker, Matagi takes inspiration from his Yavapai-Apache heritage – and the sublime geography of Northern Arizona – to create art that resonates with collectors throughout the United States and Europe. Matagi’s path to artistic renown, however, was illuminated by an unexpected source: his professors at NAU.

Molding a dream

As a teenager, Matagi’s life on the Yavapai-Apache reservation found new direction when he enrolled in an art program. While learning to shape creations with his own hands, he discovered a sense of sanctuary in a world that was not always easy. Observing his natural talent, fellow tribal members encouraged him to take his education a step further by enrolling at Northern Arizona University, which has an excellent fine arts program. Even after arriving in Flagstaff, however, Matagi found no clear path for melding his passion with a future vision.

"My dream wasn't ever to be a career artist," Matagi says. "Art was something you did on the side."

That notion changed completely when Sorensen's professors encouraged him to apply for the Whiteman Scholarship for Fine Art, which is the largest art scholarship that NAU awards. When he discovered that he was selected as the scholarship recipient, his future suddenly became clear.

"The financial support helped me make the transition from student to artist,” Sorensen says."Being the first in my family to attend college, and a single parent, it made a big difference to have that 'backbone' to rely on."

Forging a path for others

On average, more than 40% of incoming freshmen at Northern Arizona University are the first generation in their families to attend a university. From the top down, NAU faculty and staff are committed to helping every student unlock his or her own dreams through innovative teaching methods, student success and advising initiatives, and an unwavering commitment to building close student-teacher relationships. The Campaign for NAU is sharply focused on providing outstanding educational experiences for students. Your support enables NAU students to have access to more opportunities for scholarships, innovative programs, and top-notch faculty, and will always be the difference that matters for the students it supports.

"The financial support helped me make the transition from student to artist. Being the first in my family to attend college, and a single parent, it made a big difference to have that ‘backbone’ to rely on."—Matagi Sorensen