100 Creatives

Douglas Miles of Apache Skateboards on Merging Pop Culture and Native History

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 34. Douglas Miles.

Douglas Miles has figured it out: how to be in two places at once. 

With every mural, painting, and collaborative project he works on, the 53-year-old artist and founder of Apache Skateboards bridges the present with the past. 

"I thinks it’s a combination of Native history and resistance through a street-art graffiti sensibility," he says, describing his acclaimed work. He draws inspiration, he says, from "people, Apache history, good art, music, and movies that bring reality to life in new ways."

Beyond sheer talent and a strong point of view, this duality, the ability to blend contemporary issues with the historical, has earned him a national audience far beyond the San Carlos Apache reservation just east of Globe, where he lives. 

Last December, Miles painted a mural in New Orleans as part of Amnesty International's Art for Rights effort. He collaborated with Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth, who created the New York Times bestselling graphic novel Indeh: A Story of the Apache War, to make limited-edition skateboard decks highlighting the book's story and art. A few months back, he painted a mural for the Point CDC in the South Bronx neighborhood known as Fort Apache, working to bridge a gap between that New York neighborhood and the Arizona community with which it shares a name.

Miles has found success at home in Arizona, too, where MonOrchid presented a retrospective of his work back in 2014. More recently, he painted an expansive mural called Let's Get Free for Bentley Gallery in Phoenix's warehouse district as part of the springtime mural event Paint Phx 2016. At the time, Miles explained, he was bridging another gap: the one between the fine art establishment and its surrounding working-class neighborhood. 

Next up? He's working toward the Indigenous Fine Art Market with John Torres in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and participating in the Many Rivers to Cross Music Festival in Georgia this October. On the homefront, he says he's always working on new pieces, the next happenings for Apache Skateboards, and the latest with his anti-stereotype project, What Tribe. 

Besides raising his "amazing crew" of four kids, the artist says, his greatest work is yet to come.
I came to Phoenix with my mom, Marjorie Miles, and my dad, David Miles, in 1963.

I make art because when I was little, I watched my older brother Duane Miles, and I wanted to be cool like him.

I'm most productive when I’ve just had my coffee, eggs, and tortillas, and hear the quiet hum of res life and when I get an amazing idea, concept or cause.

My inspiration wall is full of Bruce Lee, Humphrey Bogart, Allan Houser, Oscar Howe, Bootsy Collins, C.S. Fly, Apache Wars, Kraftwerk.

I've learned most from my mom, older brothers and sisters, raising my own family of four, and never quitting.

Good work should always be the things you enjoy the most. Good work is its own reward, consistent; speak loud and voice opinions that are unpopular but needed.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more Douglas Miles & Friends : )

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski