Engaging and Fostering Change: Community Inspiration Program Update

We believe that the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation has a responsibility to support those artists and culture bearers whose voices and actions are championing justice and indigenous lifeways. Our Community Inspiration Projects do just that by providing artists and communities opportunities to address issues of social concern through artmaking. Here are some of the great things that are happening with three of our Community Inspiration Projects in 2017:

Wisdom of the Elders’ Native Film Academy, a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Community Inspiration project, has scheduled the Native Wisdom Film Festival to honor and acknowledge eight youth filmmakers on April 15, 2017. All four documentary films, featuring Alaskan Native peoples and Oregon tribes and their responses to how environmental issues impact their community’s cultural arts, will be screened in Portland, Oregon.

Still shot from “Roots of Tradition”, Wisdom of the Elders, 2017 Community Inspiration Program Project

During the summer of 2016, eight young filmmakers of Warm Springs, Wasco, Puyallup and Nez Perce heritage participated in a rigorous filmmaking training program to create short documentary films featuring climate and environmental issues impacting their tribal communities and ecosystems. The movies integrate interviews with tribal elders, leaders and scientists, as well as oral tribal history. The youth gained professional development in STEAM skills such as scientific research, interviews, videography, and editing; additionally they reported an increase in cultural knowledge and pride. As not all of the students grew up on their reservation, this experience gave them modern storytelling methods and a way to connect with rural tribal members, learn about traditional lifeways, and feel pride in their ability to document and give voice to their tribe’s environmental stewardship and concerns.

  • In Fall 2016 the films screened at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians conference and the California American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival; two films won awards at the Tulalip Film Festival in September 2016.
  • The Native Wisdom Film Festival will take place April 15, 2017 at the Portland Art Museum; tickets are available through the Northwest Film Center.
Wisdom of the Elders group.


“Through the Repellent Fence: A Land Art Film”, a documentary based on the creation of Repellent Fence, enjoyed its world premiere in New York City as part of Doc Fortnight 2017: The Museum of Modern Art’s International Festival of Nonfiction Film and Media.

Shooting for Repellent Fence

A work that is more timely now than ever, “Repellent Fence” was a temporary public art installation that took place in the fall of 2015 in which twenty-five 10–feet diameter balloons were hoisted in the middle of the Sonoran Desert by the artist collective Postcommodity and two communities on each side of the Mexican-American border. The two-mile line of helium filled balloons symbolized a suture between Indigenous peoples who once inhabited the area and are now divided by an arbitrary boundary.

Repellent Fence, Scare Eye Balloons

“Through the Repellent Fence: A Land Art Film” was directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas and interweaves scenes from other major land art works like Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” and Nancy Holt’s “The Sun Tunnels”. The Hollywood Reporter describes the film as a “visually engaging, sociopolitical take on the artistic process.”

The film has begun a nationwide tour of film festivals, including South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Visit its official website to see when it will be playing in a theater near you!

Hawaiian Poet Laureate Kealoha Wong will be performing the full production of “The Story of Everything” with its entire cast for the first time on the continental U.S. in October of this year.

2015 SEPT 26 – The Story of Everything by Kealoha MAMIYA Theater Honolulu, HI. Photo by James Kimo Garrett
2015 SEPT 26 – The Story of Everything by Kealoha MAMIYA Theater Honolulu, HI. Photo by James Kimo Garrett

With “The Story of Everything” Kealoha weaves his original creation story as an epic poem and multi-disciplinary performance speaking about human origin, and drawing from sources as diverse and yet interconnected as the Big Bang theory, the Native Hawaiian creation story, physics, and pop culture.

2015 SEPT 23 – The Story of Everything by Kealoha. Dress Rehearsals at Ong King Arts Center, Honolulu, HI, Photo by James Kimo Garrett
2015 SEPT 23 – The Story of Everything by Kealoha. Dress Rehearsals at Ong King Arts Center, Honolulu, HI, Photo by James Kimo Garrett

“The Story of Everything” premiered in September of 2015 at the Mamiya Theatre in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will be performed at the 2017 Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California this October. Bioneers is an innovative nonprofit educational organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet – we are so proud to have their support in bringing this powerful show to the continent!