Jonathan Thunder wins Denomie Scholarship

Jonathan Thunder
photo courtesy the artist and All My Relations Arts

Jonathan Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe) has been named the recipient of the first Jim Denomie Memorial Scholarship. Created in partnership with the Denomie/Wilson family, All My Relations Arts, and Bockley Gallery, the annual $10,000 prize recognizes a Native artist who best exemplifies the values Denomie demonstrated in his own career: commitment to excellence, generosity of spirit, and engagement with community. Denomie passed away in March 2022 at age 66.

Thunder is a multidisciplinary artist who works in painting and digital media and currently resides in Duluth. His imaginative, colorful work includes surreal paintings, digitally animated films and installations that address personal experience and offer social commentary. Since completing his studies at Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and the Art Institute International, Thunder has exhibited in state, regional and national exhibits.

Jim Denomie (La Courte Oreilles Ojibwe) was an internationally acclaimed artist whose work earned numerous awards—including the McKnight Distinguished Artist award—for his imaginative imagery, brilliant use of color, and visual stories that combined humor with piercingly honest truth-telling. Denomie was also passionate about supporting and mentoring other artists. The tremendous outpouring of love and support following his brief illness and passing in March 2022 inspired his family to create the scholarship as a way to honor and continue his legacy.

“By announcing this award on Jim’s birthday, we’re celebrating his life and work by giving back to a talented Native artist,” said Diane Wilson, wife of Jim Denomie. “Seeing this first award go to Jonathan Thunder would have made him very happy.”

Scholarship partners include the Denomie/Wilson family (wife Diane Wilson, children Cheryl Lane, Sheila Umland, Cody Cyson and Jodi Bean), and Bockley Gallery (Todd Bockley) who has been Denomie’s gallerist for more than 15 years. Bockley Gallery is assisting in the establishment of the Jim Denomie Estate and will continue to represent and exhibit Denomie’s art.

“Jim’s unique vision as an artist was matched by his passion for championing young artists,” said Bockley. “This scholarship embodies both, in the best way possible.”

The Jim Denomie Memorial Scholarship will be administered by partner All My Relations Arts Gallery/NACDI, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, where Jim Denomie has exhibited in the past. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a new recipient for at least two years, and is completely funded by donations from family, friends, and supporters.

“Jim Denomie impacted and influenced so many artists and we at All My Relations Arts fondly remember his generosity, humility, humor, and his incredible talent that we were lucky to display on numerous occasions through our gallery’s history,” said Angela Two Stars, All My Relations Arts Director. “We are honored to be a part of this scholarship which will continue his legacy of advocating and supporting up and coming Native artists. Jonathan Thunder is a prime example of an artist that exemplifies Jim’s values as an artist. All My Relations has had the privilege of working with Jonathan on multiple occasions, most recently through his work as a mentor for the We Are Still Here project. I am impressed with his kindness, generosity and sharing of his knowledge as a mentor, as well as his dedication and commitment to his craft, which includes an impressive variety of paintings, animation, and public works. There is a humility in Jonathan’s personality and humor in his work that is a reminder of Jim and it is heartwarming to know that Jim will continue to impact artists like Jonathan and others as this scholarship continues to honor Jim’s spirit and legacy.”

To support Native artists please donate to the Jim Denomie Memorial Scholarship.

For more on the award, read MPR’s story, “Gift from Jim Denomie’s family honors Red Lake artist and their mentor relationship.”