Oglala Lakota Artspace — First of Its Kind Coming to the Pine Ridge Reservation


By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015


The kind of place everyone dreams of. That is how artist and First Peoples Fund staff member  Bryan Parker (White Mountain Apache, Muscogee Creek, Mississippi Choctaw) describes the Oglala Lakota Artspace, a first of its kind space slated to break ground this fall on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

A collaboration between Lakota Funds, First Peoples Fund, and Artspace, this 8,500-ft² Native arts and cultural center will provide not only a home-base for the work of the Rolling Rez Arts Bus, but an expanded opportunity for nurturing the creative economy and arts ecosystem on the reservation.

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“Oglala Lakota Artspace has been years in the making,” says First Peoples Fund President Lori Pourier. “It’s incredibly exciting that through our strong partnerships we are now poised to break ground this September.”

The Oglala Lakota Artspace will be located in Kyle, South Dakota. The $2.75 million project is scheduled for completion near the end of 2019 and will be located in close proximity to the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lakota Prairie Ranch Resort, Oglala Lakota College, and Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation.

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Oglala Lakota architect, Tammy Eagle Bull and her Omaha-based firm, Encompass Architects, have incorporated Indigenous artistry from the start, with the team turning to Lakota star knowledge in designing Oglala Lakota Artspace. Community engagement sessions have also helped shape the building's design and function, with more community engagement sessions happening in the future to help guide programming and events for the space.  As a result, the mixed-use facility itself will be a reflection the community it is serving. The facility will provide:


• Individual artist studios.

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• Shared workspace for group collaboration that can double as a small performance space.

• A recording and sound studio.

• A computer lab and classroom space.

• Commercial space for arts-related businesses.

• A Native art gallery and gift shop, including a place to buy art materials and for visitors to shop.

• Storefront for Lakota Federal Credit Union.

• Home base for First Peoples Fund’s youth development spoken word program, Dances With Words, and a garage for the Rolling Rez Arts Bus.

“We’re all coming together to do something for the greater good of the community,” Bryan says. He is the Rolling Rez Arts coordinator, a painter, and a filmmaker. “It is a space that is going to help support existing artists in our community and hopefully inspire new ones as well.”

The new artspace is designed to provide access to the six resources identified in First Peoples Fund’s 2013 market study as the primary resources that artists need to create their work and develop as entrepreneurs. Here are some details on how the space will support each need:

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By addressing these six needs, Oglala Lakota Artspace aims to increase opportunities for the whole artist ecosystem on Pine Ridge. Project partners at Lakota Funds and Lakota Federal Credit Union see the building as an exciting step forward in helping artists thrive.

“Lakota Funds and Lakota Federal Credit Union have been strong partners with First Peoples Fund and Artspace, from coming up with the concept of this building to seeing it through to fruition,” says Tawney Brunsch (Oglala Lakota), executive director of Lakota Funds. “Designs for the building allow for Lakota Federal Credit Union to have a designated space, like a miniature version of their only location in Kyle. Think of the benefit that will be to the artists who are already in the space working with First Peoples Fund — potentially doing a class or using the lab — if they had the ability to make a sale or purchase. We would have the credit union right there to provide access to those services.”

“Think of the benefit that will be to the artists who are already in the space working with First Peoples Fund - potentially doing a class or using the lab – if they had the ability to make a sale or purchase. We would have the credit union right there to provide access to those services.”
— Tawny Brunsch (Oglala Lakota), Lakota Funds executive director, on having a Lakota Federal Credit Union storefront in OLAS

Additionally, artists will also be able to rent the studio spaces, setting them up to share their art with visitors, including tourist traffic through the busy corridor.

“The studios give them a more professional setting,” Bryan says. “It gives the artists more exposure and helps them develop ways to talk to clients — people like gallery owners and managers. It’s good training.”

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Bryan is especially excited to see how the space impacts the work the Rolling Rez Arts Bus does on Pine Ridge. The precursor to everything the Oglala Lakota Artspace will be, the Rolling Rez Arts bus has already logged over 8,000 miles and served more than 400 artists by providing art and business training, financial resources, banking services and art buyers to the vast reservation. Now it hopes to bring those artists, and new ones, to the Oglala Lakota Artspace.

“It’s almost like the bus is going to be a moving billboard that is going out and investing in the community,” says Bryan. “It will help show people what is going to take place in the building. It’s like, ‘Wow, you think this bus is great — come to the building and see what we’ve got going there.


The Oglala Lakota Artspace facility will be a reservation based, Native-run program administered by Artspace, Lakota Funds, and First Peoples Fund through the Oglala Lakota Artspace LLC.

To date, the OLAS has been funded by the Bush Foundation; Economic Development Administration; Ford Foundation; Hayes Fund and Mary Rice Fund of HRK Foundation; Hearst Foundation; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Interested in participating in upcoming community engagement sessions? Keep an eye on our Calendar, follow us on Facebook, or sign up below for our monthly eSPIRIT newsletter to be notified!