Artists as the Shapers & Carriers of Cultural Values
Since 1995, First Peoples Fund has worked to honor and support creative, community-centered First Peoples artists, and to nurture the collective spirit that allows them to sustain their peoples. Located in Rapid City, South Dakota, FPF focuses primarily on tribal communities in the Great Plains, but also collaborates strategically with other tribal nations and partners across the country.In its work with LINC, FPF focused on the domains of demand/markets and training/professional development to achieve its goal of cultural preservation and transmission. In the words of FPF’s founder and director, Lori Pourier, “Building knowledge, respect, and demand for the artistic work of Native people ensures that ancient civilizations and diverse cultures are remembered, honored, and given the power to continue on to the future.”
It also ensures that the traditional place of the arts and artists in Indian culture is activated to help Native communities thrive. “In American Indian communities, art is at the heart of household economic life, at the heart of community mobilization, and at the heart of cultural revitalization and self-determination,” said Pourier. “Native artists play a critical role not only in the direct production and sale of art, but in the construction of effective, culturally appropriate, social networks for community and economic development.” FPF works to overcome common misperceptions that have excluded artists from having a voice in the work being done within Indian communities.
With LINC’s support, the Fund developed a set of awards that use direct support to validate cultural transmission and reinforce it with professional training and market development. FPF supports artists through all stages of entrepreneurial development, from micro-entrepreneurship to small business development and beyond. More than 100 Native artists have been recognized through FPF’s Community Spirit, Cultural Capital, and Artist in Business Leadership Awards.
First Peoples Fund also provides coaching to tribal community development organizations that work with emerging artists, encouraging the development of loan funds, training in financial literacy, and other technical assistance programs. In its work with artists and its assistance to other organizations serving Native communities, First Peoples Fund nurtures artists and art and culture as engines for economic empowerment and sustainability, central to the process of strengthening tribal nations.
“LINC took a leadership role in recognizing the significance of Native artists and their potential in transforming tribal communities aesthetically, socially, and economically,” said Pourier. “The leadership qualities of artists as professional culture bearers … emerged more clearly for FPF through LINC meetings and connections provided by the LINC network. Networking with communities outside of Indian Country through LINC’s convenings helped us appreciate the real differences in experiences of our artists, and the form that technical assistance and support must take in our communities.“