Lonnie Anderson is energetic, sincere, complex, passionate, talented, and an artistic architect of a truly creative life. Beyond husband, father, he does not claim any titles. Other people call him Creative Director, Songwriter, Filmmaker, Writer, Painter, Muralist, Sculptor, and Teacher. He calls himself an explorer.

Making a Life

How many of us consider what our lives would look like if we moved boldly, only pursued work that we love, threw ourselves wholly into creative projects, and consistently held hands with inspirational ideas? I am sure Lonnie Anderson would have an answer for us and words of encouragement, because that is how he lives each day.

When I ask Lonnie to talk about his work, he explains, “The way I work doesn’t fit into any category. I hate titles and rules. I cannot work in a cubicle, it makes me crazy.  I need to be participating in life. I have a huge list of things I want to do. I don’t have time to take on work that I don’t believe in or creative projects that have don’t meaning for me.”

The list of Lonnie’s past projects and collaborative partners is inspiring and might make your head spin. Visit his website lonjanderson.com for inspiration and then take 20 minutes to listen to a TEDx talk talk he gave at the South Valley Academy about his very unconventional path to success and uncensored take on living a creative life. His favorite piece of advice: “Do what gives the best story.”

As for what he is working on right now, Lonnie returned Monday from a couple weeks of teaching in Dubai, and here is an abbreviated list of current projects on his plate:

❖      Executive producer on a film called THE SEVENTH FIRE working with Natalie Portman, Terrence Malick on Native American Gang awareness.

❖      FACE THE WIND with Woody Harrelson, Peter Farrelly, Chris Eyre and Director Melinda Farrelly and Suzan Pelfrey about the life of Chief Arvol Looking Horse who is trying to create a WORLD PEACE DAY.

❖      Board member at La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque’s South Valley working  with former Native gang members and teaching Native youth in detention.

❖      Collaborating with Travis Rice and Lib Tech to create limited edition snowboards, a new winter site and a video,

❖      Independent Creative Director in Dubai for dubizzle to write, design and produce a campaign called It’s Worth More than You Think designed to develop collaborative and alternative economies across The Gulf, Middle East and North Africa, disrupting consumer exploitation by actively encouraging sustainability, a smaller ecological footprint and kindness.

❖      Lecturing at universities and schools nationally and internationally about the importance of Positive Media and Media Literacy and the impact of practicing creativity as a means to accomplish goals and create change the world in a positive way.

Building a family

When Lonnie describes his childhood, it is difficult to reconcile his stories with the gentle, quick-to-smile, artist sitting across the table. He was raised in foster homes, eventually adopted, but exposed to a lot of violence and complexity in his family relationships. Lonnie is Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo. He explains, “My mom is brown and I have felt guilty having light skin – and I feel that guilt because I slipped by the guard. I look white and move through the world like I am white, because that’s how I look. But that is not all of who I am.”

Lonnie is as passionate about his wife and daughters as he is about his creative life which is also evidenced in his annual tradition of creative Valentines for his wife, Anne which has been featured in articles and new stories.  “My family is my most important part of my life. My wife first and then my two daughters, then my extended family and community here in the South Valley of Albuquerque. I’m not sure I would be here without them. They support me and believe in me … they don’t care if I worked for Spike Lee (my daughters don’t know even who he is) and my wife only cares about real life. They don’t care about the things that “the world” judges you on. They offer unconditional love. In our home, there is no violence, no shame (two things that were part of my childhood). All I wish is that my daughters grow up to be kind and generous.”

Asking Questions:

What are you reading right now?Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. I read a lot about the Middle East because I teach in Dubai and I want to know and understand more when I am there. I also read a lot of poetry, including Mary Oliver and Jimmy Santiago Baca.”

What did you want to be when you grew up? “An artist. As a kid, I was always painting and drawing. I could disappear into the art and imagination no matter what was going on around me.”

Who are builders or makers that inspire you?  So many!! Some may sound cliche, but they are MLK, Sitting Bull, and Obama. Also Mary Oliver, Sherman Alexis, Dolores Huerta, my friend - Chris Eyre, poets and filmmakers. I’ve gotten to work with many people who inspire me such as Dennis Banks and Russell Means. My adoptive mother inspired me. My dad inspires me, he was a mountain man who could make anything. Even though he’s a tough guy – I wouldn’t be the person I am without him. Because of him, I am not afraid of violence and it allows me to stand up to wolves and stands up people that are being victimized. My family in Wyoming, my family here. Albino Garcia at La Plazita, the kids who overcome their stuff … there are a lot of inspirational people in the world.

What is your personal creative practice?  “My life. My life is my truest, pure form of art. I am not blindly walking through it. I am creating – creating my own life which I hope (because of my choices) is a true act of creativity and art.”


Thank you for reading this weekly blog dedicated to highlighting people who are building and making with passion and creativity in the Duke City. If you want to suggest an inspirational Builder or Maker living in Albuquerque for this series, email me!

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