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.

Learn more: read the Ford Foundation’s 2010 culminating research summary, Native Arts and Cultures: Research, Growth, and Opportunities for Philanthropic Support.

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.

About the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s Founding President and CEO

T. Lulani Arquette (Kanaka ‘Ōiwi [Native Hawaiian]) is the founding past President and CEO of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF). Under Lulani’s tenure, NACF awarded over $14M in total program support to almost 400 Native artists and organizations in 34 states; co-hosted in collaboration with NEA and NEH, the first ever national convening of Indigenous arts and cultures with public agencies in DC; and facilitated the “landback” transfer of a historic building in Portland, Ore. the Center for Native Arts and Cultures, a vibrant artist maker, exhibiting and presenting space and headquarters for NACF.

Lulani received the 2021 Berresford Prize from United States Artists, an award that honors cultural leaders and practitioners who have contributed significantly to the advancement, wellbeing, and care of artists in society. In 2022, she was named one of 25 people by Willamette Week who are shaping the arts in Portland.

In 2023, Shyla Spicer (Yakama) joined NACF as Lulani’s successor after an extensive search conducted by the NACF Board’s Search Committee.

The NACF board and staff extend their gratitude to Lulani Arquette for her steadfast leadership and welcome Shyla Spicer with enthusiasm, anticipating a continued pathway of success in advancing NACF’s mission.

Learn more: read the Ford Foundation’s 2010 culminating research summary, Native Arts and Cultures: Research, Growth, and Opportunities for Philanthropic Support.


October 3, 2007

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation is incorporated as a non-profit organization. Echo-hawk, Harjo and Woody served as founding Board Members.

March 28, 2008

The Foundation receives its Federal tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


The Foundation opens its national headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., and hires its first President/CEO, T. Lulani Arquette (Native Hawaiian).


The Foundation begins its first grantmaking cycle and awards its first round of funding.


The Foundation awards $510,000 to 28 artists and organizations and organizes the first national Native arts convening, “Strengthening the Bones.” The gathering brings over 100 participants – hailing from 25 different states and representing dozens of Native Nations – together to vision what is needed by Native communities through their artists and arts organizations and to define the Foundation’s priorities


The Foundation publishes “Our First Five Years“, reporting on its early work in Individual Artist Fellowships and various Community-Based initiatives.


The Foundation launches its Community Inspiration Program.


The Foundation launches its Mentor Fellowship initiative.


The Foundation organizes its first convening of its National Artist Fellows, and publishes “Progressing Issues of Social Importance Through the Work of Indigenous Artists.”


NACF expanded on its 2017 efforts, organizing the second National Artist Fellowship Convening, which included public facing events in Portland, Oregon.


NACF celebrates its 10th anniversary in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) 98th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market.


NACF launches new programs SHIFT and LIFT, and takes ownership of the Yale Union Laundry building, beginning plans to transform it into the Center for Native Arts and Cultures.


Native Arts and Cultures Foundation hires Shyla Spicer (Yakama) as the new President and CEO

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