Brian Adams (Iñupiaq), "Marie Rexford," photograph, 2016.
Photo courtesy of the artist


In 2007, a study conducted by the Ford Foundation demonstrated a deep need for a national resource to support Native arts and cultures in the US. After a preliminary feasibility study, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) was launched in 2009 to recognize Native creativity, heal
the damage of history, and support cultural continuity for generations of Native artists and culture bearers.

Since its first year of programming in 2011, NACF made significant strides in fulfilling its mission to nurture Native artist success by offering support to individual artists, arts organizations, and communities. In March 2019, NACF conducted an internal review looking carefully at a subset of 120 final awardee reports. We also surveyed 252 past artist and organization awardees and learned that the overwhelming majority of awardees were responding to the following: social, political, environmental, spiritual, economic, and food justice issues through a Native lens, drawing increased attention to Native communities, perspectives, and challenges, shifting a national narrative of invisibility, misunderstanding, and misappropriation.

Based on on our findings and after conversations with stakeholders, NACF defined one overall focus area: Catalyze Native peoples, artists and cultures bearers to influence positive social, cultural, and environmental change. We devised four priorities to guide our future work with a primary focus of promoting positive social change, education in philanthropy and the public, and to convene and converge Native artists. You can learn more about our goals and priorities in the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, which outlines a bold vision for NACF as we pivot programming with SHIFT and LIFT and extends our reach with a new home for the Center for Native Arts and Cultures (CNAC) in Portland, Oregon.



Choreographer and dancer Emily Johnson (Yup’ik) was awarded a 2011 NACF Artist Fellowship in Dance.

From 2011-2020, the NACF supported Native artists through the National Artist Fellowship and Mentor Artist Fellowship programs. Award recipients represented innovative and multifaceted approaches to literature, dance, visual arts, film, storytelling, music, and traditional arts strengthen culture, foster creativity and economic opportunity, and impact issues of social progress, environmental sustainability, and cultural equity.


Israel Shotridge (Tlingit), Painted Box.

Community Inspiration Program projects were artist-driven and designed to connect Native and non-Native people in community conversations to address social, cultural, and environmental concerns. To address the lack of economic resources and progress social change, NACF’s Community Inspiration Program (CIP) Native Nation Partnerships (NNP) initiative provided funding to Native Nation arts organizations in support of their arts and cultures projects.


NACF has been a catalyst for cultural equity, promoting the work of our fellows and artist projects, producing issue-oriented presentations, panels, publications and workshops, and sponsoring efforts that further intercultural enrichment. We have collaborated with many Native organizations and others whose missions support increased awareness and appreciation of tribal or Native arts and culture in any arts discipline.