Spotlight: Native Art Contest Winner Jacob Maurice Johns

PWNA’s Native Art Contest provided a promotional opportunity for creatives within the Native community by sharing their artwork and asking the public to vote for their favorite submission. The winner of the contest was selected based on the highest number of votes, and the final winner was announced at the beginning of this month. We’re spotlighting this year’s winner, Jacob Maurice Johns.

Jacob Maurice Johns
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona
Tribal Affiliation: Akimel O’otham (Gila River Pima) and Hopi

Jacob attended cosmetology school in Washington state and then worked as a hairdresser and rave promoter/DJ before discovering his passion for social issues and completely shifting gears in his career. Jacob became serious about his social activism in 2016 after the presidential election and contributed greatly to movements such as the water protection protest at Standing Rock. Today, Jacob contracts as a Community Supported Organizer for the nonprofit organization Backbone Campaign, where he focuses on organizing front-line and non-violent direct action.

Art has been a passion of Jacob’s for as long as he can remember — his mother was a portrait artist, so he grew up in an environment that nurtured creativity. Jacob’s skills are mostly self-taught, but his mother provided some tips and tricks on portrait drawing once that became his focus in 2002. Early on, Jacob focused mainly on black and white paintings but has since incorporated more color into his work to create a “gritty urban feel that brings light to darkness” and connects the past to the future.

Realizing that art can drive social change, Jacob decided to intertwine his two passions and create artwork around the issues he feels strongly about. He donated his time and talent to the Spokane American Indian Community Center by creating paintings that were used for fundraising. His artwork has even taken the form of a large 10-foot by 10-foot dreamcatcher on the side of a warehouse for Spokane nonprofit Terrain Show, and he will be working on another large mural soon for a local women’s homeless shelter.

Jacob also decided to turn his talent into a business, opening an art studio in Spokane, Washington, where he’s currently living. You can see more of his works on his Facebook page at Studio One Eleven. One of his most popular offerings at his studio is personalized portraits, where people can bring in a photo of themselves or someone else for Jacob to recreate in his own unique style. He also creates “interactive” pieces where anyone can provide their own contribution to his large artwork. Interested in purchasing one of Jacob’s pieces? Contact him at

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