The Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards (CSA) recognizes exceptional artists who have shown a lifetime commitment to perpetuating their art and sharing it within their communities. These practicing artists embody the Collective Spirit®, and are nominated for the award by members of their communities. Meet this year's artists.
Anna Brown Ehlers remembers the moment when she first dreamed of becoming a Chilkat weaver. She was four, Alaska had just become a state, and her uncle was dancing in his traditional Chilkat blanket during a community celebration.
“I saw that beautiful design and those rich colors. I watched the fringe gracefully moving back and forth as my uncle danced, and I knew I hoped I could do that someday,” she said.
Fifty-eight years later, Anna has been recognized as among the country’s foremost artists by the National Endowment for the Arts through a National Heritage Fellowship. The awards were announced in June. In 2001, First Peoples Fund honored Anna through a Community Spirit Award for her work to revitalize and pass on Chilkat weaving, an art form that was nearly lost in her lifetime.
Two of First Peoples Fund’s Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award honorees, Chilkat weaver Anna Brown Ehlers (Tlingit) and slack key guitar master Cyril Lani Pahinui (Native Hawaiian) received the 2017 National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Award, which were announced last week.
When we reached out to Cyril, a 2013 Community Spirit honoree, to congratulate him, he sent back the beautiful message below filled with aloha, love and community spirit, which we share with you. A post about Anna is coming soon. Cyril has been battling health issues and working composing and teaching from a hospital bed for more than a year.
First Peoples Fund is excited to share that two of our Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award honorees have received the 2017 National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Award, announced last week. Chilkat weaver Anna Brown Ehlers (Tlingit) was a Community Spirit Award honoree in 2001, and slack key guitar master Cyril Lani Pahinui (Native Hawaiian) was a 2013 honoree.
A heartfelt thank you to the New York Times for highlighting the importance of the National Endowment of the Arts funding for Lakota Country. If approved by Congress, the national budget proposal would mean the elimination of NEA grants to Native artists and the organizations and institutions that support them across Indian Country.
Through the Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards, we recognize the work of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian culture bearers who uphold the Collective Spirit®. Through their work and their lifeways, these artists embody the traditional values of First Peoples Fund — generosity and wisdom, respect and integrity, strength and humility.
These culture bearers are sustaining the arts of Indigenous people within their communities, growing arts ecologies, and teaching the next generation of artists and culture bearers of their People.
In 2017, we honor four outstanding culture bearers as they join nearly 100 past recipients of this prestigious award.
Our hearts are still full with deep gratitude following the 2016 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards. We are grateful for the support we received — from artists, community members, volunteers, businesses, sponsors, donors large and small, media, and local government. Together, we brought the celebration home to Rapid City to shine a light on what is working, and what has always worked, in Indian Country.
On October 7-8, 2016, Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), will travel to Rapid City, South Dakota, where she will visit organizations that are actively engaging, serving, and promoting the arts in the Native American community.
They’ve spent over 50 years of marriage, art and living cultural practices of the Cherokee people in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina. This is where Butch and Louise Goings (Eastern Band of Cherokee) connect with everything and stay balanced in life. It’s what they teach. It’s the way they live.