Already Excited
February 28, 2022

Already Excited

The Work Ahead for the 2022 Fellows & Honorees

In February 2022

First Peoples Fund announced the new cohort for the Cultural Capital (CC) and Artist in Business Leadership (ABL) fellowships, including honorees for the annual Community Spirit Award.

“Being selected for the fellowship is already exciting,” says Del Curfman (Crow Nation of Montana), a painter of Apsáalooke culture and a 2022 ABL fellow. Curfman is developing a series of paintings for a project titled Faces of Our Land: Decolonizing Urban Identities. “[My] inspiration is to connect with fellow Indigenous people, [and] to hear their stories and create meaningful artwork,” says Curfman.

The Artist in Business Leadership (ABL) fellowship is one of three grant-gifting opportunities for Indigenous artists at First Peoples Fund. Since 2004, ABL has supported more than 100 artists by building their entrepreneurial, marketing, and networking skills. But what excites Curfman most is collaborating with current and past fellows.

“First Peoples Fund alumni and established collaborators are so talented and inspiring,” says Curfman. “I am honored for the support [from First Peoples Fund].”

Similarly, Ursula Hudson (Tlingit), a fashion designer and visual artist, is ready to network outside of her small town in Colorado. “I’m generally very isolated from other artists, let alone other Indigenous people,” says Hudson, also a 2022 ABL fellow. “I’m thrilled to expand [outside] my community.”  

For her fellowship project, Hudson is creating fashion pieces for Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto and for a fashion show hosted by the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA).

“Many Indigenous artists that I follow and admire have received Artist in Business Leadership (ABL) fellowships.”

- Ursula Hudson (Tlingit)

The Collective Spirit of Community

In addition to the ABL fellowship, the Cultural Capital (CC) fellowship strengthens the Collective Spirit of artists who perpetuate generosity, wisdom, and integrity through community-based and cultural preservation projects. And Wetalu Rodriguez (Nimiipuu) is among the eight 2022 CC fellows who will strengthen the Collective Spirit of their communities over the next year— and beyond.

Rodriguez, a beader and seamstress, is coordinating a powwow camp for children. “This powwow camp will be all-inclusive and recommended for experienced and non-experienced dancers,” says Rodriguez. “It is important to introduce these dance styles at a young age [in order] to develop a firm cultural bond.”

First Peoples Fund has supported over 50 CC artists and cultural projects that share and strengthen ancestral knowledge. “As Nimiipuu, we are taught [that] the more you give away, the more it comes back full circle,” says Rodriguez.

“I knew if I received the opportunity for funding and resources offered from the [Cultural Capital] fellowship, it would allow me to be a cultural mentor without the heavy financial burden— and that is a huge inspiration.”

- Wetalu Rodriguez (Nimiipuu)

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1. Del Curfman (Crow Nation of Montana), 2022 Artist in Business Leadership fellow. Photo provided by the artist. 2. Ursula Hudson (Tlingit), 2022 Artist in Business Leadership fellow. Photo provided by the artist. 3. Wetalu Rodriguez (Nimiipuu), 2022 Cultural Capital fellow. Photo provided by the artist. 4. Blossom Johnson (Diné), 2022 Cultural Capital fellow. Photo provided by the artist. 5. Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti (Kanaka Maoli), 2022 Artist in Business Leadership fellow. Photo provided by the artist. 6. Tsanavi Spoonhunter (Northern Arapaho), 2022 Artist in Business Leadership fellow. Photo provided by the artist.

Blossom Johnson (Diné), a storyteller and playwright, is also strengthening her community’s Collective Spirit through her CC fellowship. “I’ve been wanting to work with my community for years,” says Johnson. “And the fellowship allows me to plan and develop a five-week playwriting workshop.”

Johnson’s fellowship project is inspired by her mothers, sisters, and aunties (who also encouraged her to apply to the fellowship). She is developing a new play that will be translated into Diné. “When I write,” says Johnson, “I re-learn things I’ve forgotten, like culture, tradition, language, and history.”


“I have so much planned for the fellowship,” says Johnson. “But building a strong relationship with my community will be the most important part, because without [community], I would not have had the courage to apply in the first place.”

Inspired to Lead the Way

The alumni network of ABL and CC fellows consists of over 230 artists and cultural bearers. And Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti (Kanaka Maoli), a musician and composer, was inspired to apply to the ABL fellowship because of the talent she admired in previous cohorts.  “I greatly respect Moses Goods (Native Hawaiian),” says Lanzilotti. Goods is an actor, playwright, and 2021 ABL fellow.

For Lanzilotti’s own 2022 ABL fellowship, she is excited to connect with Indigenous artists from different disciplines. “It is a great help to have this support, both in terms of concrete financial support and community,” says Lanzilotti. “[I] can dream big!”

Filmmaker and reporter Tsanavi Spoonhunter (Northern Arapaho) was also inspired to apply because of previous fellows. “I remember reaching out to Ben Pease (Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Hidatsa, Cree) a few years ago to work on a poster for my short film,” says Spoonhunter. “I learned he was a [2019 ABL] fellow, and I think that's what really encouraged me to submit my application.”

“A lot of respected artists in Indian Country have gone through the [First People Fund fellowship] programs.”

- Tsanavi Spoonhunter (Northern Arapaho)

For her fellowship project, Spoonhunter is opening a filmmaking production company. “I've struggled to figure out where to begin,” says Spoonhunter. “And I knew this fellowship would give me that guidance.”

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In all, First Peoples Fund selected 19 Artist in Business Leadership (ABL) fellows and 8 Cultural Capital (CC) fellows. Moreover, 4 Community Spirit honorees were selected, too.

Through a $25,000 award, the Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award celebrates artists who exemplify their People's cultural assets in their creations and in their way of life.

“Community Spirit honorees embody their community's ancestral, cultural, and linguistic knowledge,” says Rachael Nez, who leads the selection process. “It's important we recognize and support their work.”

The 2022 honorees include basket maker Ed Carriere (Suquamish Tribe), fiber artist Renee Dillard (Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians), canoe builder Shawn Brigman (Spokane Tribe of Indians), and storyteller Charlie Soap (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma).

Pushing Forward

With a community of 31 fellows and honorees this year, First Peoples Fund staff will host workshops and virtual gatherings for fellowship recipients. And Tsanavi Spoonhunter is ready for the work ahead. “I'm excited to get to know all the artists in my cohort,” says Spoonhunter. “Indigenous-led organizations [like First Peoples Fund] are unique because they provide a space for like-minded individuals with similar backgrounds.”

“That's something I appreciate,” says Spoonhunter. “And [that’s] what I look forward to being a part of.”

Are you interested in applying to the 2023 Cultural Capital or Artist in Business Leadership fellowships? Do you wish to nominate a cultural bearer for the Community Spirit Award? Applications open in June 2022. Stay updated by visiting www.firstpeoplesfund.org, and follow new updates on First Peoples Fund’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

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