Grantee: Bryan Akipa
In 1975, a passion ignited in Bryan Akipa to become a self-taught flute maker and flute player. At the time, there were too few artisans hand carving traditional red cedar flutes and playing traditional flute music. His spirit of inquiry and enthusiasm for traditional flute playing compelled him to dedicate himself to the art form. Subsequently and impressively, he has come to master one of the most fundamental traditions of the Dakota people; and since that time, Akipa has been recognized internationally in concerts, musical composition and collaborations among musicians, including musical groups from China, Quebec, Israel and Brazil. Now, as an accomplished artist, his two greatest, recent awards are “The National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award” and from his home state, “The South Dakota Living Treasure Award.”
Also, as a multi-disciplinary artist, Akipa began his career studying Tahokmu Painting under Oscar Howe at the University of South Dakota. He is a self-taught Northern Plains Indian Sculptor and studied New Media Art Digital Fine Art at the Institute of American Indian Arts. A humble artist, Akipa prefers that his art and music speak more about him and his work than words can offer. For his 2018 Mentor Artist Fellowship, he will pass on to Aaron Erdrich (Sisseton Wahpeton, Turtle Mountain) the knowledge, stories, and wisdom of traditional red cedar bark flute making and traditional flute playing. He also envisions a flute performance accompanied by his apprentice in a dynamic natural landscape and sees Erdrich carrying forward the traditions of the Dakota flute.
I enjoy the knowledge that I’ve learned from my people. I believe in completing the circle – now that I’ve learned, developed, and profited from this knowledge, I give a portion of my work back to the people…this also keeps the art alive.”
Bryan Akipa performed at the lighting ceremony for “Dignity of Earth and Sky.”