Collaboration With Artspace And Lakota Funds Strengthens Current Work And Future Possibilities On Pine Ridge

Space is just one piece of the wheel when it comes to providing Native artists what they need, and First Peoples Fund has partnered with two organizations to help make that happen for Native artists on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Artspace and Lakota Funds have joined forces with First Peoples Fund in a project funded through a Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Artspace, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the leader in artist-led community transformation, running a network of 35 affordable arts facilities in 13 states. Their work represents a $500 million investment in America's arts infrastructure. Lakota Funds promotes economic sustainability on the Pine Ridge through business loans, technical assistance, and wealth building education for families and businesses.

The RBEG grant will provide on-the-ground training on the Pine Ridge to Native artists. The one-year grant began in October and will include 18 trainings—the first of which was recently held. The grant is unique because it draws expertise from three organizations dedicated to assisting Native artists.

"Each partner brings their own strengths to this innovative program," said Jeremy Staab, a business coach and technical assistance manager at First Peoples Fund. "Each one is coming at it with a diverse focus, which strengthens our collaboration together."

The project will lay the groundwork for a future mobile unit and art space to be built on Pine Ridge.

"We'll be getting artists ready for the art space that will be built in Kyle," Staab said. "Artists will have the skills and the training to use that space in the most impactful way poossible."

Artspace is providing the space development and web development trainings, said Kathleen Kvern, senior director of national advancement at Artspace. Their role in the project fits with organization's mission to "create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations."

The future space in Kyle will be a diverse work area for collaboration and studio, work, gallery and performance space, Kvern said. When artists have a shared space, they can "come together in ways meaningful to the artists and community members that advance the cultural, artistic, economic and social goals they define for themselves."

Lakota Funds will be working with artists on skills like photography and financing, and First Peoples Fund is providing their renowned Native Artists Professional Development training.

The hands-on training will give artists lots of opportunities to expand their work, Staab said. The photography training, for example, will include a workshop with a professional photographer from Minnesota who will talk about the importance of quality pictures on websites and in promotional material.

"At the end, they'll understand better how photography can enhance their work and marketing, and know how to be prepared to work with a professional photographer," Staab said.

Marketing training will also be a major component, said Yolanda Clifford, a success coach and loan officer at Lakota Funds. "Having worked with artists for many years, we know they don't always have an understanding of marketing, or the resources available," she said. "They know how to do their craft or trade, but not how to get the fairest price for their work."

Clifford looks forward to seeing Native artists expand their reach through this partnership. "It's hard for them to sell local and market outside the area," Clifford said. "So that's where I'd like to see this go. And, we are heading in that direction."

Partnering with First Peoples Fund and Lakota Funds has been a great fit, Kvern said. There's history between the organizations too: In 2009, Artspace received a grant from The Ford Foundation to begin work with First Peoples Fund to understand and assist the specific cultural and space needs of Native artists.

"A critical first step with our work on Pine Ridge was establishing the key relationships with First Peoples Fund and Lakota Funds and finding the right way to understand issues and opportunities for Native artists," Kvern said. "We've been able to engage in several years' worth of preliminary work, including the development and launch of the Creative Economy Study."

That study, Kvern said, was valuable because it helped shape the development of the future facility and mobile unit.

"Over the past several years, Artspace has strengthened our partnership with First Peoples Fund and Lakota Funds and deepened relationships with artists and other community members and organizations," Kvern said.

The new space will be a great tool for artists.

"We hope that this future space will contribute to the ongoing development of culture bearers and artists and that they are increasingly recognized and valued as important economic assets to the community," Kvern said.