Over the past 20 years, activity and connectivity around Native arts and cultures in the United States has notably increased.
- The urgent work of cultural transmission and preservation is taking place in Native communities.
- The success and recognition of individual Native artists is inspiring younger generations.
- Native artists are engaged deeply in a heightened discourse on urgent contemporary issues, such as environmental stewardship and community vitality.
But even as awareness of and interest in Native arts and cultures increases, indigenous artists, culture bearers and Native-led arts & cultural organizations face tremendous challenges.
In the early 2000’s, led by former Program Officer Elizabeth Theobald Richards (Cherokee), the Ford Foundation responded to the call for a national, Native-led resource for Native artists and organizations by engaging in a deep consultative process. A wide variety of leaders from the American indigenous arts and cultures field participated and provided critical insights into its challenges, needs, and potential. A leadership circle of four advisors—Walter R. Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Joy Harjo (Mvskoke), Jayne Fawcett (Mohegan) and Elizabeth A. Woody (Navajo/Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama)— provided key guidance.
The study explored the creation of a new philanthropic resource to support the diverse arts and cultures of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities. A feasibility study ascertained that developing a Native-led, Native-partnering organization to direct critically needed support to Native American artists and communities was not only achievable, but essential.
Informed by this research, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation was created. Since its public programming launched in 2010, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation has engaged in grassroots community organization and outreach to listen to and amplify the voices of the Native arts community. With your help, we hope to foster more dialogue, provide a base of understanding our work together, and in gaining momentum for collective strategies which invest in Native communities, appreciate the contributions of Native art, and forge new relationships and understanding across cultures.