An Artistic Voice Heard

For Wade Fernandez, one of the sweetest things about receiving a grant from First Peoples Fund is being recognized by the organization as an artist and a voice for people who he says desperately need to be heard.

“As a Native American artist, you sing about things on the reservation and Native people, and you want to do more than you can,” he said. 

A USDA Federal Rural Business Enterprise grant from First Peoples Fund will help him do exactly that. As an enrolled member of the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin, Fernandez will receive $5,000 worth of technical assistance money to help obtain the tools and assistance needed to run a successful music business. 

Tribal artists play a critical role in strengthening community economies and lifting Native peoples out of poverty, which is part of the reason that First Peoples Fund partners with artists like Fernandez to help grow their artistic endeavors. 

Every year, five to seven Artist in Business Leadership fellows receive a $5,000 working capital grant from First Peoples Fund, which offers technical assistance, professional development and industry?specific group training, and increased access to new market opportunities. In turn, the fellows become mentors and viable leaders in strengthening the arts sector of their tribal economies. 

“The program is empowering artists like Wade to not just have a voice, but to help offer the tools and resources oftentimes needed to spread that voice across the country,” said Miranne Walker, program officer at First Peoples Fund. “Wade is doing remarkable things, and we are so happy to work alongside him… and to celebrate his work.” 

Fernandez, who is an Artist in Business Leadership fellow and a former Community Spirit Award recipient, is a musician taking online music classes as well as lyric writing classes with his grant. He’s also signed up for a master recording class in Indiana. 

Fernandez plans to use the assistance and training to produce a CD of his tribe’s language, which he says is in danger of disappearing. 

“The original speakers are dying and we need to do as much as we can,” he said. 

He hopes to eventually develop a curriculum around the CD, so it can be used in educational settings and taught to younger generations. 

Grants from FPF are important for artists like himself, he said, because they encourage and support ideas and skills that might otherwise go unused or sidetracked. 

“Technical training will help me do things in a quicker and professional way,” he said. “If you don’t have business skills to promote your work and your message, you have less of a chance of being successful.” 

To learn more about Fernandez, visit his website at www.wadefernandez.com.