Continuing an education in the arts, from graphic design to radio

38-year-old UI student Dawson Davenport came back to college to add graphic design to his plethora of artistic knowledge.


Nick Rohlman

Dawson Davenport stands for a portrait in Art Building West on Nov. 7, 2018.

Maleaha Brings Plenty, Arts Reporter

Undergrad student Dawson Davenport of the Meskwawki Tribe on the Tama Settlement is putting his voice out there in more ways than one.

Davenport not only aims to spread his message through abstract art, he also has his own clothing line and radio show. He’s focused on spreading the word on environmental issues, missing and murdered indigenous women, Native drug addiction, and healthy and traditional ways of eating.

Growing up, Davenport shadowed his brother, who was an artist. He said he always tried to “outdo him” and was very competitive.

“He really encouraged me at a young age and really inspired me to be an artist,” Davenport said.

He also cites his tribal affiliation as one of his biggest influences early on his art career.

“I danced at Powwows — I’m a grass dancer — and my community always had summer programs where we would learn how to bead, sew, carve, and I actually learned screen-printing through that,” he said.

Davenport’s biggest inspiration when it comes to art is storytelling. Being not only a graphic designer but also a poet and a writer, he aims to get his message across through a variety of different media. 

“Being able to visually tell a story is something that really inspires me,” he said.

The Des Moines Art Center recently commissioned him to make a poster, which was created for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“That’s what really inspires me to continue to be an artist is that I now have created a platform where I can put this stuff [political issues] out there, and people will see it and listen to it,” he said.

Davenport decided to go back to college at 38 to pursue graphic design and start a radio show (“We Still Here Radio” on 87.9 KRUI). He said he wants to inspire younger Native students and show them to use their talents and voices for something good, and that he aspires to spark change in the world and to inspire the younger Native generation to do the same.