Cheyenne River Youth Project

RedCan Seeks to Inspire and Empower Native Youth — Especially Young Women

Indian country’s first-ever graffiti jam is just six weeks away, but it’s not too late to support this ground-breaking initiative. The Cheyenne River Youth Project® is still raising funds, which staff will use to purchase paint, art supplies, food and beverages, and to help cover the artists’ travel expenses.

RedCan is scheduled for July 8-9 in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, where activities will take place in CRYP’s 5-acre Waniyetu Wowapi (“Winter Count”) Art Park and at select sites around the community. From there, artists will head west for a second RedCan event in Rapid City’s Art Alley. At both locations, graffiti culture and Lakota culture will merge in powerful and unexpected ways.

According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, the RedCan fundraiser is allowing art enthusiasts and supporters of native communities to come together to join an unprecedented international movement. “Most people don’t know that graffiti is the largest and longest-running art movement in human history,” she explained. “But it’s more than that. It’s truly a revolution, because graffiti art is a great equalizer, and it’s a source of meaningful empowerment for young people.

“In this country, native youth face enormous obstacles,” she continued. “We’re finding that if they have a positive, creative outlet to express themselves, tell their stories and share their life experiences, they develop and nurture a strong, unique identity. They find their voice, and this fosters healthier, more well-rounded individuals as they grow to adulthood.”

Headline graffiti and street artists for RedCan include East Foster from Denver, and acclaimed female artists Meme, from northern California, and Kazilla, who hails from New Mexico but currently lives and works in Miami. Garreau said she is especially excited to welcome these accomplished women to Cheyenne River.

“In our new art internship program, which we launched this spring, more than half of our interns are young women,” she explained. “We’re thrilled that we can provide them with two inspiring role models during the two-day RedCan graffiti jam here on Cheyenne River.”

Both artists have noted that they experienced a troubled youth, and art helped them turn their lives around. Today, Meme leads an all-female group of artists and skaters under the heading “Few and Far,” which now has 17 international members who paint murals together around the world while supporting and empowering each other as women and as artists. She also directs creative photoshoots, facilitates skateboard and mural projects, plans group trips, and paints and skates every day. She recently went to Bali and organized a large-scale mural project with children there.

“I show women that they can aspire to be anything,” Meme commented. “I love to work with youth. It’s my life passion. I teach youth art, murals, skateboarding, and working as a team. Education is the main thing, besides healthy eating. I always do fun activities with kids to show the importance of women, and all youth, in having a good education. We need more female doctors, members of Congress, scientists, teachers. We need more career women.”

Kazilla, who earned a bachelor’s degree in illustration, is known for her cutting-edge street art. She paints live at events for performers such as Wu-Tang Clan, The Marleys, Chaka Khan and Timbaland, and for brands like Adidas, Converse, Guess, Choice Hotels, Oxygen Network and Societe Perrier. Her work has appeared at the Museum of Art, both in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables; Miami MOMA; and galleries in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Dubai. She also works as a performance artist, designer, muralist, photographer, producer, musician, philanthropist and consultant.

“I’ve been interested in working with native people for many years,” Kazilla said. “I’m part Shoshone, with Cherokee and German mixed in, so I feel partial to this. When I read that this is for native people — and for native girls — I felt compelled to participate.

“I’ve been nonstop, pushing the envelope in my own work to become a better person,” she reflected. “In my spare time, I also actively teach workshops and work with kids and adults to help cultivate their creative spirit. I just recently did that on a mural tour in Costa Rica, in the small town of Uvita.”

She noted that she is dedicated to lifting up young people, helping them become “the shining stars of their generation.”

“I know what it’s like to be young and without direction, friends, and hope,” she said. “I would love to come and give whatever positive influence and support I can to these kids. They will always be beautiful, but knowing what beauty they have within can be life-changing.”

For Garreau, this is the inspiration that lies at the heart of RedCan: using art to find the beauty — and the power — within.

“I want to show our girls that they can be anything,” she said. “So much of what we do here, including Passion for Fashion, the art internships and RedCan, are about female empowerment. You can be a doctor, a lawyer, a veterinarian, a skateboarder, even the executive director of a not-for-profit. You can do anything. At CRYP, we want to show our kids the options and the opportunities available to them.

“White Buffalo Calf Woman, a sacred woman in Lakota tradition, once said, ‘A man who looks first to a woman’s outer beauty will never know her beauty divine, for there is dust upon his eyes and he is blind,’” Garreau related. “‘But a man who sees in a woman the spirit of the Great One and sees her beauty first in spirit and truth, that man will known Divinity in that woman.’”

That, Garreau, explained, is important for all young people to understand. It doesn’t matter whether they’re boys or girls.

“We are committed to our art initiatives because we want our youth to fill themselves up with positive, creative, nourishing pursuits that celebrate who they really are inside,” she said, “and to celebrate that special, precious divine light shining within each one of them.”

Meme will be working on a mural about the Lakota creation story and White Buffalo Calf Woman while she is visiting Cheyenne River. She also will be giving an exhibition at Eagle Butte’s skateboard park and providing instruction.

In addition to East, Meme and Kazilla, a variety of native and non-native artists, hip-hop groups, native drum groups and native dancers will be on hand as well.

“Not only will RedCan be a source of inspiration for our youth, it will be a source of pride for the entire Cheyenne River Lakota Nation,” Garreau said. “It will be for all ages and all cultures. It will be a gathering that celebrates storytelling, reconciliation and healing, in all their forms.”

To support RedCan, select “Help CRYP” in the navigation bar above and then click “Donate Now,” or visit our Crowdrise campaign.

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.

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