02/28/2022

Artist Spotlight: Vernan Kee

Categories: Perspectives , Community

Vernan Kee

Vernan Kee is a climber, artist, and advocate for the outdoors. His graphic design work with Natives Outdoors—a creative collective that works directly with Tribal governments, community organizations, and individuals on increasing access to outdoor recreation—connects him with Access Fund’s mission on a deep level. He was a natural choice for our 2022 membership t-shirt, and we love his illustrated depiction of the soaring domes of Cochise Stronghold.

Join Access Fund as a member today to get your free member t-shirt, and keep reading to learn more about what makes him tick, his connection with Cochise Stronghold, and what climbing advocacy means to him.

Tell us about your work with Natives Outdoors.

I am the graphic designer for Natives Outdoors. We are an organization that has expanded to providing advisory and consulting services to the outdoor industry on topics within the intersection of tribes, public lands, and outdoor recreation. We work directly with tribal governments, community organizations, and individuals on increasing access to outdoor recreation and connecting resources and opportunities within the outdoor industry.

"My ancestors used climbing to escape enemy invasions and would climb down canyon walls to seek refuge in hidden caves. Now I have so much respect for these places and do my best to educate others."

How do art and climbing connect for you?

Art and climbing for me are very similar. I am using my hands and fingers to move across the surface to meet a goal. With a pencil I can feel graphite move across the paper and with climbing I feel the same but my hands are moving across the surface.

The 2022 membership t-shirt features Cochise Stronghold, an adventurous climbing destination on the ancestral lands of O'odham Jeweḍ and Chiricahua Apache in southeastern Arizona.

We love the art work you’ve created for Access Fund’s 2022 membership t-shirt and sticker featuring Cochise Stronghold. Can you share what Cochise means to you and why you picked it for the shirt?

For me the outdoors is a very meaningful place. It helps me connect with mother nature on a different level from my daily life as a graphic designer/dog rescuer. I am able to feel at peace with what seems like a standstill in time and able to enjoy life. Cochise is one of those meaningful places.

What does it mean for you to be climbing on native land, as a person of native heritage?

It puts a different perspective in my mind with each climb. My ancestors used climbing to escape enemy invasions and would climb down canyon walls to seek refuge in hidden caves. Now I have so much respect for these places and do my best to educate others.

How can climbers be respectful when climbing on native land?

Don’t just read the climbing books—do your research on the land.

Resources

Learn more about the history of Cochise Stronghold: Desert Rustle: Navajo guide and Access Fund Native Lands Coordinator Aaron Mike explores the intricate web of history, stewardship, and climbing in Cochise Stronghold, Arizona. Story by Krista Karlson and Len Necefer

Existing Tribes with ancestral connections to Cochise Stronghold:

Discover what Native Land you are living and climbing on: Native Land Digital Map

Learn how to respectfully climb on sacred lands: Watch the Webinar: Climbing on Sacred Land

Support Natives Outdoors: Shop The official Natives Outdoors Store

What does it mean for you to be an Access Fund member?

I am able to help educate people on how they can protect climbing areas.


Our warm thanks to Kee for not only supporting Access Fund, but also for his artwork on the new membership tee and sticker.

Become a member today to help protect America's climbing. When you join for $40, you'll receive an exclusive t-shirt and sticker with Vernan Kee's original artwork of Cochise Stronghold.
Become a member