NATIVE ARTS AND CULTURES FOUNDATION "STRENGTHENING THE BONES" CONVENING ENDS WITH RENEWED VIGOR AND ENTHUSIASM IN THE FIELD
PORTLAND, Ore., Nov. 8 – The second day of “Strengthening the Bones,” the first convening of the Native arts and cultures field by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF), concluded Saturday, Nov. 5 with performances, coalition building, and advocacy. One hundred Native artists, musicians, writers, educators, and representatives of Native artist service organizations and museums from 25 states participated in the two-day gathering, which began on Friday, Nov. 4.
The questions and topics that were examined during the last day of the convening included: What has shifted in you during your experience at this convening? Are there specific “knowledge resources” or “model ways of working” in your community that the participants would benefit from hearing about? What burning questions do you want your colleagues here to consider? What will you share with your community at home or with the broader Native field? Regional/national coalition building and engaging Native communities were other topics discussed.
NACF President and CEO T. Lulani Arquette began the morning session with a history of the NACF. “This effort began more than 20 years ago, when a number of talented, knowledgeable and committed Native artists, culture bearers and arts administrators met and began talking about what a Native arts and cultures initiative would entail,” said Arquette. “From 2003 – 2009, under the direction of Betsy Richards, the Ford Foundation’s Strengthening the Field of Native Arts and Culture Initiative was a dedicated effort to support Native artists and the organizations that support them.” In 2006, Ford began the IllumiNation project as a $1.9 million effort to support Native visual and performing artists, encourage entrepreneurship, and build networks early on in the field’s history.
Seven organizations were part of the original IllumiNation initiative: American Composers Forum; The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art; Evergreen Longhouse; First People’s Fund; the National Museum of the American Indian; New England Foundation for the Arts; and the Seventh Generation Fund. “These organizations and others helped pave the way for the NACF,” said Arquette. “They have been doing important work for a very long time and we are grateful and honored to have them here with us at our convening.”
One highlight of the day included a keynote address by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree), NACF founding advisory board member, acclaimed musician and founder of Nihewan Foundation, who inspired and motivated participants as she talked about her long and illustrious career in music and the arts.
“Our Foundation is supporting artists, extending and expanding art, and supporting our communities,” said Sainte-Marie. “I believe that the NACF will continue to ‘ripen’ and connect our cultures to communities large and small.”
Oregon and Washington organizations and Native nations that participated over the course of the two-day convening included: Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC); Meyers Memorial Trust; Northwest Indian College; Wisdom of the Elders; Crow’s Shadow Art Institute; The Museum at Warm Springs; Oregon Folklife Network; Oregon School of Arts and Crafts; Longhouse Education and Cultural Center; Portland State University; Ke Kukui Foundation; Squaxin Island Museum; Cedar Works Gallery; Swinomish Tribe; Lummi Cultural Arts Association; Lummi Nation; and Confederated Tribes of Siletz.
During the convening, artists Bunky Echo-Hawk (Pawnee, Yakama) and Toma Villa (Lummi) were busy painting two murals that documented the meeting from their unique artistic perspective. “After having individual conversations with a lot of people here, we realized that the ‘process’ of creating art is not exposed a lot,” noted Echo-Hawk. “We feel blessed that we were able listen and be inspired by the conversations, by your ideas, and by the beauty and compassion in this room.”
The Convening’s sponsors included The Nathan Cummings Foundation, LarsonAllen, Union Bank, and The Ford Foundation.
The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation is the first national 501(c)(3) charity committed to building a fund dedicated exclusively to foster the revitalization, appreciation and continuity of Native arts and cultures. In late 2010, the Foundation awarded its first grants totalling $394,319 to 26 American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artists and organizations in 12 states.