2015 Highlights

The following covers highlights from seven Fellows, the Community Inspiration Projects, Sponsorships and California Bridge Initiative. To see and learn more about any of NACF’s Artist Fellows or Projects please check our website at http://www.nativeartsandcultures.org/ or follow us on Facebook as we could not include mention of everyone due to space. We congratulate all of our 2015 Fellows and awardees for a commendable year.

Martha Redbone
2015 NACF National Artist Fellow, Martha Redbone performing, Courtesy of the artist

Martha Redbone’s (National Artist Fellow for Performing Arts) fellowship project, “Bone Hill” a musical theatre performance, recently premiered its full-scale production this month at Joe’s Pub at the Public in New York City. Joe’s Pub opened in 1998 and continues to play a vital role by providing established artists with an intimate space and superior acoustics to perform and develop new work. The Pub also offers resources and collaborators for musicians to develop new theatrical works. “Bone Hill,” is an epic story about four generations of Cherokee women and is also Redbone’s first exploration into theater. “An award [NACF Fellowship] of this magnitude would have a major impact on my life, creatively, musically, and personally” – Martha Redbone.

Layli Long Soldier (National Artist Fellow for Literature) was awarded a Lannan Literary Fellowship in November. The Lannan Literary Awards and Fellowships were established in 1989 to honor established and emerging writers whose work demonstrates exceptional quality; and the fellowship recognizes writers of distinctive literary merit who prove potential for continued outstanding work. Long Soldier also began teaching at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona as of last fall. To work with the page, more than anything else, I value urgency” – Layli Long Soldier

Bernice Akamine’s (Hawai’i Regional Artist Fellow for Visual Arts) collaborative exhibition entitled, “I Ulu No Ka Lālā I Ke Kumu” recently opened at the Wailoa Art Center in Hilo, Hawai’i. This is the first part of her KALO project from her 2015 NACF Fellowship. Kalo is an installation of plants made of pōhaku (stone) and printed newsprint. The project exhibition evolved into people contributing pōhaku to the artwork, allowing for community participants to claim part ownership in the exhibition. Both Kanaka Maoli and non-Hawaiians were invited to contribute pōhaku, just as both had signed the original Kūʻē: The Hui Aloha ʻĀina Anti-Annexation Petitions 1897-1898. Two other kalo plants have been installed at the Lihue Airport on Kaua’i and another kalo plant will be installed at the West O’ahu campus of the University of Hawai’i. The final KALO project, an estimated seventy-nine plants, will be presented in its entirety at the University of Hawaii Commons Gallery this coming May.


“Off the Reservation” or “Minnesota Nice” – 2012 oil painting by Jim Denomie, Courtesy of the artist

One of Jim Denomie’s (Upper Midwest Regional Artist Fellow for Visual Arts) works entitled, “Oz,” a large scale ink drawing (30×42″), was recently acquired by the Walker Art Center for their permanent collection. He also received a Painters & Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. This grant was established in 1998 to provide unrestricted career support by awarding to painters and sculptors creating exceptional, quality works of art. Application is by nomination process and selected by prominent visual artists, curators and arts administrators as jurors. The foundation sustains and celebrates Joan Mitchell’s unique legacy as a leading American Abstract Expressionist painter.

Vicky Takamine (Hawai’i Regional Artist Fellowship for Dance) worked as choreographer to the Washington National Opera’s production of “Better Gods,” which is about the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani. The show recently premiered this month at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC. As choreographer, Takamine had the chance to work with renowned Broadway director, Ethan McSweeny and world-renowned conductor Timothy Meyers. “It is amazing that the Washington National Opera commissioned the story of our queen. This is a great opportunity for professional development and to learn from these remarkable artists and production crew “ – Vicky Takamine

Maika`i Tubbs (Hawai’i Regional Artist Fellow for Visual Arts) will be creating sculptures with plastic trash collected by Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i, an effort coordinated by the Honolulu Museum of Art. Sustainable Coastlines organizes large-scale beach cleanups across the state. Maika`i sculptures from the cleanups will be installed at the Honolulu Convention Center as part of the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress this coming September. For Hawai’i, hosting the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2016 will highlight environmental action such as the 2010 Executive Order, which directed US agencies to increase their ability to maintain healthy, resilient and sustainable oceans, coasts and Great Lakes resources to benefit present and future generations. http://iucnworldconservationcongress.org/ 


Stephen Blanchett
2015 NACF National Artist Fellow, Stephen Blanchett performing, Courtesy of the artist

Stephen Blanchett (National Artist Fellow for Music), Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole (Hawai’i Regional Artist Fellow for Music) and Emily Johnson (2011 National Artist Fellow for Artistic Innovation) were three of only four US Native performers represented at the Western Arts Alliance’s (WAA) 48th Annual Conference last fall in Vancouver, BC. They performed individually in the “Indigenous Performance Showcase”—a new and first-time program at the conference—among a lineup of other Indigenous performers from Canada, New Zealand and Australia. WAA is a membership association of touring and performing arts professionals committed to promoting and presenting performing arts throughout the western US states and Canadian provinces. WAA’s annual booking conference and its year-round programs are essential for artists, artist managers, presenters, and other performing arts professionals to engage and network with each other. http://westarts.org/about-waa

Community Inspiration Projects

The first group of four Community Inspiration Projects ended the year with far-reaching success. Cumulatively the four projects—Postcommodity’s “Repellent Fence,” Kealoha’s “The Story of Everything,” Emily Johnson’s “SHORE” and Sundance Institute’s “New Frontier Native Forum”—directly impacted and involved more than 350 artists in their projects, and directly reached audience levels of more than 21,000 viewers and participants in their region or nationwide. The projects worked in the genres of land art, digital storytelling and community driven performing arts that stimulated conversations on such social topics as borderlands and transmigration, community and belonging, innovatively using new media technology and spoken word for storytelling and conjoining science and culture into performance that newly expounds our world.


Return from Exile exhibit title board
Co-directors of Return from Exile project, Courtesy of Return from Exile project

Each year, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation attempts to provide sponsorship support—as funds are available—for activities related to travel, exhibitions, research and events. From NACF support in part, opportunities were created for more than forty Native artists and culture bearers to bring their artistic creation to new audiences—from Oklahoma to Georgia, Hawai’i to California and from the United States to Italy. Additionally, NACF support helped actualize the vital convening of Native leaders in California to discuss and drive changes of how curricula in California public schools should incorporate Native perspective and account of history as well.

California Bridge Art + Health Initiative

Cultural Conservancy_youth rowing
Native Youth Guardians of the Waters program, Courtesy of Cultural Conservancy project

2015 wraps-up the California Bridge Art + Health Initiative. The initiative was to address health issues in California Native communities through an arts lens, and which over two years has positively engaged more than 700 participating Native youth. They participated in healthy, fun and creative activities with cultural and artistic learning as part of the experience. Testimonials from the program participants revealed impact that changed countless lives, imparted tools to make healthier decisions and deepened intergenerational bonds through a myriad of activities. I am going to share many of the things I learned with my family and peers… All this has inspired me to do something as a career with community engagement and cultural conservation” – Youth