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.
PAST PROGRAM AWARDS
NATIONAL ARTIST FELLOWSHIP
At its heart, the Artist Fellowship initiative was built around the fact that in order for any artist to succeed creatively, they need time, space, and financial support to cultivate their creative process, improve their craft, explore new concepts and, for some, take risks that they might not have had the capacity to take otherwise. By offering Fellowships, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation was able to strengthen the ecosystem of support for Native artists, enabling them to generate more artistic work, live sustainable lives, and contribute to their communities.
MENTOR ARTIST FELLOWSHIP
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. 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. NACF Mentor Artist Fellowships 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.
COMMUNITY INSPIRATION PROJECTS
Community Inspiration Program projects were artist-driven and designed to connect Native and non-Native people in community conversations that address pressing social, cultural, and environmental concerns to create positive change. Through the Community Inspiration Program, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation enabled artists and communities to inspire shared hopes and arts-based experiences to drive vital conversations.
NATIVE NATION PARTNERSHIPS
The voices of Native artists and culture bearers are steadily reaching larger and more diverse audiences across the nation. Both urban and rural Native artists and arts organizations possess the same potential to inspire and energize their communities and to play a leading role in sparking conversation around social issues. To address the lack of economic resources and to progress social change, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s Community Inspiration Program (CIP) Native Nation Partnerships (NNP) initiative provided funding to Native Nation arts organizations in support of an arts and cultures project.
Native peoples need forums for telling their stories, and opportunities to build bridges between Native and non-Native stakeholders and audiences. To that end, the NACF has awarded local, regional and national grants to organizations that share our vision and have the demonstrated capacity to build a flourishing Native arts and cultural landscape since 2011. Below are partner bios and some of the stories we have shared about past awardees. For a comprehensive list of awardees visit the Special Projects page.
AWARDEE STORIES (2014-2020)
This year, three Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF), National Artist Fellows have been named the inaugural Western Arts Alliance (WAA), Native Launchpad award recipients. Congratulations to Christopher Kau’i Morgan (2013 – NACF Dance Fellow), Allison Warden (2018 – NACF Music Fellow) and…
AWARDEE PROFILES (2011-2013)
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.
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.