Applications for the 2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship closed on September 30, 2019.
For questions about your application or the Mentor Artist Fellowship program, contact Laura Cales, Program Coordinator, at

Sharing Knowledge, Skills, and Cultural Wisdom

An incredible wealth of cultural heritage and creative expression is held and maintained in Native arts and cultures. As our Native American elders pass—and with the integration of non-tribal worldviews in our Native communities—Indigenous people are experiencing a dilution of cultural wisdom. So, passing the fire between generations, particularly in Native arts and cultures, is of vital importance. Historically, Native artists and culture bearers dedicated their time, resources, and support to teaching the next generation by passing on technical skills, arts practice, and cultural knowledge needed to perpetuate visual and traditional arts in the community.

Yet in today’s fast-paced and overloaded modern world, mentorships can be resourcefully challenging. While even the most established Native artist faces challenges, emerging artists are especially vulnerable: pressed for time, resources, and support, their ability to advance their skills and attain necessary knowledge is often limited. Thus, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Mentor Artist Fellowship is focused on creating formal, structured opportunities for the transfer of knowledge, and supporting artistic rigor that furthers cultural perpetuation and creative development.

NACF Mentor Artist Fellowships will perpetuate the continuity of traditional practices, languages, and cultural expressions in Native communities, and provide an avenue for a new generation of artists to invest and strengthen their artistic voice in the evolution of contemporary visual arts.

Initiative Goals

Through the Mentor Artist Fellowship initiative, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation will:

  • Foster a viable Native arts environment and livelihood
  • Increase intergenerational transference of American Indian and Alaska Native artistic knowledge and cultural practices
  • Further sustain artistic and cultural heritage within Native communities
  • Meet our mission by promoting Native arts and cultural revitalization, perpetuation and appreciation within Native communities and the broader arts world

How the Initiative Works

Following an open call for established American Indian and Alaska Native artists working in traditional or contemporary visual arts, Mentor Artist Fellows are reviewed and selected in a competitive process involving a peer review panel. Mentor Artist Fellows and their chosen apprentices are selected to participate in a 15-month program of routine and structured sessions. To demonstrate the experience and success of the mentoring, a completed joint mentor and apprentice art project is required at the end of the fellowship period and is to be shared in a community engagement event or activity.

Thank You Initiative Partners

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation is piloting this initiative in the following 12 states: Alaska, Alaska, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Southern California, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. We are grateful to Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, the Ford Family Foundation and the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation for supporting the Mentor Artist Fellowship program.

Partner with the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation to support a Mentor Artist Fellow in your state.

NACF 2018 Mentor Artist Fellows

Aurolyn Renee Stwyer

Aurolyn Renee Stwyer is a Celilo Native who is revered for her magnificent beadwork, particularly her practice of beading traditional horse regalia that is significant in her culture.

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Bryan Akipa

Bryan Akipa, a meritorious Native American flute player, traditionally carves his flutes as has been done since time immemorial.

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Jason Garcia

Jason Garcia’s contrast depictions of postmodern and traditional Native imagery perfectly portray the dichotomy of living in two worlds.

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Kathleen Carlo Kendall

Kathleen Carlo Kendall is one of Alaska’s most prominent sculptors, imbuing significant and fascinating cultural metaphors in each piece.

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Lily Hope

Lily Hope is a weaver who brings in-depth ancient Indigenous knowledge and practice into her Chilkat weaving and teaches the tradition to perpetuate it for generations to come.

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Lisa Telford

Lisa Telford is an accomplished and innovative artist who is committed to sharing her traditional and contemporary practices of cedar-bark weaving.

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Patrick William Kruse

Patrick William Kruse continues to be one of few artists who creates birch bark art. He pays homage to his ancestors by maintaining use of ancient patterns for his designs.

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Will Wilson

Will Wilson’s vivid photography counterpoints the ‘archival impulse’ embedded within the historical imageries of Native peoples, and he depicts the hazardous impact to environmental change in his photo-series entitled, “Auto-Immune Response.”

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