Building a Foundation for Native Arts & Culture Councils

Posted by Mr. John W. Haworth, Dec 06, 2022

Native Arts & Culture Councils, a two-year pilot project funded by the Ford Foundation, is designed to help Native communities develop Arts and Culture Councils similar to existing local arts agencies across the United States. In the initial stages of this initiative, this group of tribal-led, community-based organizations is making important contributions to our national cultural discourse and paving the way for broader participation by other tribes. The Native cultural field has changed dramatically in the last thirty or so years. There is broader acceptance that there should be no “speaking about us without us,” and Native leaders, artists, and cultural organizations want their cultural perspectives recognized, documented, understood, and celebrated. Community-anchored and community-informed work includes a variety of approaches: Some of the tribal organizations are committed to advancing tourism to strengthen the local economy; others focus on supporting local artists (including artist directories, organizing local art markets, and commissioning public art projects); still others seek to develop programmatic capacities related to public events, classes and workshops, film screenings, youth projects, ceremonial activities, and heritage preservation and oral history projects. There is value in having input from people living in tribal communities and having their perspective on how best to develop local cultural assets that suit their community’s needs.

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Recognizing the Value of the Arts in Oxford, Mississippi

Posted by Oliver Nell, Nov 28, 2022

Only a few years ago, the business community in Oxford skewed heavily toward traditional notions of economic growth and profitability, which inevitably bred a bias toward large manufacturing businesses, insurance, finance, and healthcare. A smaller-scale entrepreneur community, particularly more creative and artistic entrepreneurs, was not cultivated to the degree it should have been. This community didn’t attract attention because it wasn’t necessarily seen as vital to the health of the local economy. In 2015, Oxford’s local arts agency, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC), recognized this was an issue for the community. They saw that a major part of the local economy—the arts sector—was not being taken seriously as an economic driver. The numbers, they found, were on their side, demonstrating that the arts made up more than a negligible portion of the local economy. The YAC began strategizing with the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce on how they could best capitalize on the arts ecosystem in town, which was finding a way to survive even without the necessary value placed on it. Together they began looking for ways to integrate the separate arts and business communities such that their complementary skill-sets and capacities could meet their mutual goals and needs.

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The Power of Culturally Specific Artistry

Posted by Jade Cintrón Báez , Sep 20, 2022

As founder and director of ¡Looking Bilingüe!, a storytelling platform for Latinés who feel ni de aquí, ni de allá (neither from here nor from there), I have the pleasure of listening to people’s stories, exchanging perspectives on issues our community faces, and uplifting the U.S.-born Latinés who can’t speak Spanish fluently, face racism, and/or who generally feel they can’t claim their Latiné culture. These guests and I amplify these topics, archiving where they are on their journey, and acknowledge the patchwork quilt that is Latinidad: not a melting pot, but how we stitch together who we are today based on our shared and distinct multicultural and multirace histories. This work was once something I ran from. The idea of using my cultural identity professionally was something I felt embarrassed about. It felt inappropriate, rude, and something I had to keep neutralized for the sake of homogeneity. As an actor, I’d been conditioned to think of how I could fit in certain “ideal” boxes, and this had bled into my personal life. I’d grown weary of 30-second elevator pitches of my cultural identity and artistry. I wanted to find a way to be myself in both professional and personal spaces without having to tick everyone else’s boxes—to make my story mine.

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Can Art Help Fight A War?

Posted by Mrs. Iryna Kanishcheva, Sep 08, 2022

Russia’s assault on Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, with a series of missile attacks and the use of long-range artillery. My mother called me from Ukraine in the middle of the night, crying. I assured her that everything will be alright. The next day I was headed south from my home in Florida for a ribbon-cutting event and the idea of war seemed to be surreal. How can we celebrate a new mural when people are being killed by invaders from a neighboring country? I thought of Shepard Fairey because he is well known for his involvement in social issues. He had some political ideas for a mural but it never happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked to paint a mural for Ukraine, he replied that he couldn’t but was releasing the Make Art Not War design for free for non-commercial purposes to support Ukraine, and allowed me to execute the mural using local resources. As a result of this project, money was raised and sent to some individuals in Ukraine directly, just to provide some immediate support. Even in a small town like Gainesville, Florida, a small group of people was able to collect some funds and help to buy a helmet, shoes for the frontline soldiers, and also contribute to fixing the damaged roof of an apartment complex. Maybe it is just one insignificant action, but there are many of us and we are powerful together.

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Member Spotlight: Megan Berner

Posted by Megan Berner, Linda Lombardi, Aug 09, 2022

As Arts & Culture Manager for the City of Reno, Nevada, Megan Berner manages a public art collection of over 200 artworks, project manages all new public art projects, works with artists, manages the City’s Arts & Culture Grants program, oversees the City’s various gallery spaces, and serves as staff liaison to the City of Reno Arts & Culture Commission and their Public Art Committee. She is also a visual artist. “The best part of what I do is working in the community. I am originally from Reno and feel very connected to this place. It is exciting to work in a position that helps facilitate art and creative placemaking and to see ideas come to life. It’s especially rewarding to have the community be a part of the process, for them to interact with the artists, and to witness the transformation that takes place when art projects are implemented.”

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Member Spotlight: Lucy Gellman

Posted by Lucy S. Gellman, Linda Lombardi, Jul 20, 2022

Lucy Gellman is the editor of the Arts Paper and co-founder of the Youth Arts Journalism Initiative at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. As a reporter and editor, she covers arts, culture, and community with an eye toward social justice and anti-racism. Prior to her time at the Arts Paper, she worked as a general assignment reporter for the New Haven Independent and a station manager at WNHH Community Radio. She holds degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and the Courtauld Institute of Art, both in art history, and is a former Fulbright fellow and the winner of a 2020 Connecticut Arts Hero Award. This year, she received recognition from the Elm City Freddy Fixer Parade Committee for her work. “Last week, my Friday began at a theater summer camp and it ended with a march against police brutality in which song, poetry, and sidewalk art were all used in the streets. In between, I talked to a singer/songwriter about how the pandemic changed his practice. The arts are essential to every one of those stories.” 

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