Mentor Artist Fellows Training in Minneapolis

On May 17 and 18, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) convened its 2017 and 2018 Mentor Artist Fellows and their apprentices for a training in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Minneapolis is a creative and innovative city that is supportive of Native arts and is also central to many of the NACF’s relationships with arts organizations and Native artists, including several NACF alumni fellows throughout Minnesota and the Upper Midwest area. For these reasons, Minneapolis was a perfect fit for the gathering.

The training, facilitated by Theresa Secord (Penobscot), who is a 2016 NACF National Artist Fellow, was designed to prepare the newly selected 2018 fellows for their upcoming year of mentorship. In addition to developing goals and lesson plans, the training provided an opportunity for the fellows to gain experience from past Mentor Fellows and learn about each other’s art through presentations. The general consensus was that bringing both 2017 and 2018 fellows together was incredibly valuable for fostering relationships between the artists. Past fellows offered much appreciated extended support to the 2018 fellows for their upcoming mentoring year. The NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship is a program established to perpetuate the tradition of passing artistic knowledge and cultural practices from one generation to another with intensive one-on-one sessions between artist and apprentice during a yearlong mentorship.

NACF Board Secretary and artist Adrian Wall (Jemez Pueblo) was one of several board members to attend the Mentor Artist Fellow training in Minneapolis. One of his main impressions from the training was that the stories shared by the fellows over the two days were powerful and reinforced the importance of this award.

“The ‘traditional’ approach to learning art in Indian country is based on an apprentice/mentor relationship,” stated Wall. “Though a western art education can teach you about art history, writing about art and critical thinking, it often lacks the lessons that are learned from a mentor/mentee relationship. Especially when we are talking about tribal arts, with all the cultural, ecological, historic and aesthetic knowledge embedded in Native art. By creating an opportunity for artists to impart their knowledge to a mentee/apprentice, seedlings are planted and they grow embedded knowledge that is released back into our communities.”

NACF staff, Minneapolis art enthusiasts, and many of the NACF board members also joined the Mentor Artist Fellows and apprentices at the training. Additionally, a panel event featuring four NACF Mentor Artist Fellows was held on May 17th at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) titled, “Identity in Our Fashion”.

“BIG thank you to Native Arts and Cultures Foundation for organizing such an amazing, inspiring, and all around fantastic 2 day workshop. I am beyond excited to work and collaborate with the coolest, Will Wilson. I am also honored to be amongst some incredible Indigenous artists who are driven to teach, and share their wonderful knowledge with their community.”
― Samantha Tracy, Apprentice of Will Wilson

I thought that the overall program was excellent and gave good insight of the power of Native culture and beliefs… How strong the Native belief was!
~ Kathleen Carlo Kendall, 2018 NACF Mentor Artist Fellow

Special thanks to the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront, owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, for hosting this special gathering.