2016 National Artist Fellows Convene and Create Community


On June 1 and 2, 2017, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation celebrated the passion and creativity of our 2016 cohort of National Artist Fellows with a two-day Convening in Portland, Ore. This marked the first time NACF has been able to convene the artists, who spent two days sharing and learning from one another, in conversation with guest presenters, and discussing ways to strengthen and enhance their work and communities, and the field of Native arts and cultures.

The 48 hours of Fellows’ presentations, rich discussions and special guest participation reiterated the importance of supporting Native artists and the crucial need for their voices to be heard. It also reminded us of the power of the circle, of gathering and being in the presence of one another.

On the first day of the Convening, artists were able to share their work and stories with their peers. The sharing was followed by the ‘Arts Journeys – Different Perspectives’ panel presented by Musician, Poet and NACF board member Joy Harjo, Curator of Native American Art at the Hallie Ford Museum in Salem, Ore., Rebecca Dobkins, and Senior Executive Emeritus NMAI and NACF National Leadership Council member John Haworth.

The second day started off with a powerful talk by Tlingit Author and Poet Ernestine Hayes, and also included a unique opportunity for Fellows to discuss issues pertaining to Native artists and their communities.

At the end of the two-day Convening, the Fellows, NACF board and council members, staff and guests got together for an honoring dinner at the Portland Art Museum. It was an evening of celebration and recognition of the talent, commitment and courage that this extraordinary group of artists has shared with us in the past year.

Special thanks to the Ford Foundation, for their support of the National Artist Fellows program, the Portland Art Museum for their support of this event, and the individual donors, tribes, businesses and foundations whose generosity supports the NACF mission to support the revitalization, appreciation, and perpetuation of Native arts and cultures throughout the United States.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect my heart to be moved as much as my mind. The convening was a heart-opening few days, and I’m so grateful I was able to attend. It came at just the right time in my work and my life (…).” Kelli Jo Ford (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) – 2016 Literature Fellow

“Being in the same space with fellow artists who identify as Native American was a spiritually fortifying experience. It really helped to solidify the idea of extended community.” Thea Hopkins (Aquinnah Wampanoag) – 2016 Music Fellow

“Honestly, it was a highlight of my year. The fellowship is a big hunk of money, a prestigious line on the resume, and the ability to see a project realized. I am extremely grateful for all that, and the convening turns those finite benefits into “forever” ones as the relationships and one-on-one time of meeting colleagues will continue to deliver benefits.” Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation) – 2016 Visual Arts Fellow

“This experience was a wonderful resource, as financial support as a practicing artist, but also community support through connecting me in with my peers and elders who I admire. NACF brings us all together to grow stronger, and I really appreciate that perspective.” Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota) – 2016 Visual Arts Fellow

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