Led by former Program Officer Elizabeth Theobald Richards (Cherokee), the Ford Foundation responded to the call for a Native arts fund by engaging in a deep consultative process within Indian Country during the early 2000’s.
In an extensive feasibility study, the Ford Foundation gathered information from a wide variety of leaders in the Native arts and cultures field. A leadership circle of four advisors—Walter R. Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Joy Harjo (Mvskoke), Jayne Fawcett (Mohegan) and Elizabeth A. Woody (Navajo/Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama)—provided guidance as the study included observations from Ford Foundation grantees and other field gatherings, existing literature, and research on operational and financial models for philanthropies.
- Click here to read the Ford Foundation’s 2010 research summary, Native Arts and Cultures: Research, Growth, and Opportunities for Philanthropic Support.
The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation was incorporated on Oct. 3, 2007. Echo-hawk, Harjo and Woody served as founding Board Members for the non-profit organization.
- March 28, 2008: the Foundation receives its Federal tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
- 2009: the Foundation opens its national headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., and hires its first President/CEO, T. Lulani Arquette (Native Hawaiian).
- 2010: the Foundation begins its first grantmaking cycle and awards its first round of funding.
- 2011: The Foundation awards $510,000 to 28 artists and organizations and organizes the first national Native arts convening, “Strengthening the Bones.” The gathering brings over 100 participants – hailing from 25 different states and representing dozens of Native Nations – together to vision what is needed by Native communities through their artists and arts organizations and to define the Foundation’s priorities.
- 2013: The Foundation publishes “Our First Five Years“, reporting on its early work in Individual Artist Fellowships and various Community-Based initiatives.
- 2014: The Foundation launches its Community Inspiration Program.
- 2016: The Foundation launches its Mentor Artist Fellowship initiative.
- 2017: The Foundation organizes its first convening of its National Artist Fellows, and publishes “Progressing Issues of Social Importance Through the Work of Indigenous Artists“.