The National Artist Fellowship was designed to to explore, develop and experiment with original and existing projects. The NACF was able to recognize Native artists who make a significant impact in their discipline, who were respected by their colleagues and the greater arts field, or who were emerging as powerful voices in the arts. Awarded National Artist Fellows also work with their communities and share their culture in numerous ways. The award is designed to support Native artists as they explore, develop and experiment with original or existing projects

In addition to the monetary award, National Artist Fellows attended NACF convenings to build partnerships with their cohort and the Native arts community at large. In 2017, the NACF held its first convening to act as a catalyst for Native artists, communities, organizations. In 2018, the convening was held in Portland, Oregon and included three full days of programming plus an honoring dinner. Each of the artists gave fifteen-minute Ted-Talk like presentations about their work that included visuals, video, readings and performances, representing work that spanned their respective disciplines, from film-making and performing arts, to literature, traditional practices and visual arts.

The positive feedback from artist fellows demonstrated the power of convening talented and intellectual artists together to network, think-tank and engage with the community. There was a sense of comradery and mutual admiration that resulted in plans for collaboration, new work ideas and a general excitement about the potential of their collective voices. There was an overwhelming sense of wonder and inspiration and, like our long-term commitment to these artists, many of them launched life-long relationships from these events.

Overall, the National Artist Fellowship program strengthened the ecosystem of support for Native artists, enabling them to generate more artistic work, live sustainable lives, and contribute to their communities. The program awarded 105 artists from 2011 through 2018.

Honestly, it was a highlight of my year. The fellowship is a big hunk of money, a prestigious line on the resume, and the ability to see a project realized. I am extremely grateful for all that, and the convening turns those finite benefits into “forever” ones as the relationships and one-on-one time of meeting colleagues will continue to deliver benefits.

– Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation), 2016 National Artist Fellow

NACF would like to express its appreciation to all of the community stakeholders, organizational collaborators and generous funders who supported the National Artist Fellowship program. The program would not have been possible without support from the Ford Foundation, Second Sister Foundation, arts patrons, and the generosity of the Andy Warhol Foundation for their support of Visual Arts Fellows.