NACF’s 2017 Mentor and Apprentice Artists Gather in Portland, Oregon

Native Arts and Cultures Foundation 2017 Mentor Artist Fellows, Apprentices, and Session Leaders at the Portland Art Museum, May 2017. Photos: Mary Overman


On May 9th and 10th, 2017, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation gathered its first cohort of Mentor Artist Fellows and their and Apprentices in Portland, Oregon, kicking off a year-long mentorship to facilitate the intergenerational transference of American Indian and Alaska Native artistic knowledge and cultural practices.

The twelve Mentor Artist Fellows attended two days of participatory training and critical discussion sessions at the Paramount Hotel and the Portland Art Museum. The trainings were designed to guide them in developing goals, expectations, and plans for the coming year. The Apprentices gathered on the morning of May 10th to discuss their roles and goals for the mentorship. The Mentors and Apprentices joined on the afternoon of May 10th to collaborate on shared goals and objectives for the coming 12 months and to present their plans for a joint project. Two masters of apprenticeships and indigenous arts practice conducted the training sessions:

  • Theresa Secord, a traditional Penobscot basket maker and the founding director of the Main Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA). During her 20 years of leadership, MIBA was credited with saving the endangered art of ash and sweet grass basketry. Over the course of 30 years, Secord taught more than a dozen apprentices the endangered art of ash and sweet grass basketry. In addition to weaving baskets, Secord continues to strive to help other artists achieve their own goals of art and economic self-sufficiency, through consulting work for national Native arts organizations and governments.
  • Cristóbal Martínez, a practicing and publishing digital designer, artist, and scholar in rhetoric, the learning sciences, and diversity studies. Martínez, a member of the interdisciplinary artist collective Postcommodity, collaborates with his colleagues to position metaphors that mediate complexity within sites of social, cultural, political, and economic tension. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow of Indigenous Art, Digital Design, and Education at Arizona State University.

Additionally, both groups took part in professional development workshops, sharing sessions, and presentations, including an overview of the Portland Art Museum’s Center for Contemporary Native Art, led by  the museum’s Director of Education and Public Programs Dr. Mike Murawski, and online collections research, by Dr. Rebecca Dobkins, curator of Native American Art and a Professor of Anthropoology at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. The group also spent time in the Portland Art Museum’s galleries and was generously offered the opportunity to view art objects from the museum’s Native collection.

Click here to watch informal presentations given by the 2017 Mentor Artists Fellows on May 9, 2017.

We give special thanks to the Paramount Hotel and the Portland Art Museum for supporting this unique and inspiring gathering!