Over the course of three days, September 26-28, the eighteen 2018 National Artist Fellows were convened in Portland, Oregon, for sharing and learning from one another, interfacing with the public and discussing ways to strengthen their work and the Native arts and cultures community.
On the first day, each of the artists gave fifteen-minute Ted-Talk like presentations about their work that included visuals, video, readings and performances, representing work that spanned their respective disciplines, from filmmaking and performing arts, to literature, traditional practices and visual arts. It was a day of personal histories and a breadth of arts mastery and innovation. It was a truly inspirational way to kick off the convening. That evening, 2018 Fellow, Ciara Lacy, screened her film, “OUT OF STATE”, for the general public at The Old Church in downtown Portland, a feature length documentary film depicting the plight of Native Hawaiian prisoners taken from their Hawaiian homes to serve time in an Arizona prison.
On Day two, the artists were rapt by a keynote address from renowned Native poet, novelist and performer, Joy Harjo, a founding NACF board member. They were also joined by previous Fellows Nora Naranjo-Morse (2014 – Visual Arts), Sonya Kelliher-Combs (2011 – Visual Arts), Brent Michael Davids (2013 – Music) and Billy Luther (2014 – Film) who discussed their experiences during their Fellowship years and as continuing members of the NACF family. The day concluded with a long conversation about the state of the Native arts field and envisioning its future, exploring strategies around narrative change and greater opportunities for Native artists. Later, all of the artists were celebrated with an evening of performances and speakers at the Honoring Dinner, attended by over 130 guests at the Portland Art Museum.
On Day three, the artists participated in a day of public programming at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). Several artists presented their work and visited with students in classrooms and the day featured two artist panels in a symposium, Where the Earth and Sky Meet. The panels included eight visual and traditional artists presenting their work and speaking to the respective issues their work addresses, moderated by PNCA graduate and 2018 NACF Fellow, Anthony Hudson. The convening closed with the opening of an exhibit, “Not Fragile”, at the Portland Art Museum, showcasing the resilience of Native artists working in glass and curated by 2018 NACF Fellow RYAN! Feddersen.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the convening participants demonstrates the power of bringing a cohort of highly talented and profoundly intellectual artists together to network, think-tank and engage with the community. And thus, the sense of comradery and mutual admiration was palpable, resulting in plans for collaboration, new work ideas and a general excitement about the potential of their collective voices. Over the course of the three days there was an overwhelming sense of wonder and inspiration and we expect, like our long-term commitment to these artists, that many of them have launched life-long relationships.
NACF would like to express its appreciation to all of the community stakeholders, organizational collaborators and generous funders. The convening could not have happened without you. But mostly, we want to thank the Fellows who traveled from all parts of the country to gather here in Portland, leaving their busy lives, who are at the heart of all the work that we do. It was all so profoundly beautiful.