As so many of you already know, this month marks the kickoff of a new annual event for CRYP: the RedCan graffiti jam. RedCan is one of our many arts initiatives here at the youth project, which include the Waniyetu Wowapi (“Winter Count”) Art Park, the art internship program, and a variety of ongoing classes and workshops.

With Waniyetu Wowapi, we sought to create a free, public art space where community members and visitors of all ages could gather and share their stories, life experiences, and unique identities and voices in a safe, positive environment. We dedicated the park last September, and now, we’re finding that it’s resonating with people in ways we could not have expected.

Some of these supporters are artists. RedCan has attracted acclaimed graffiti artists from Denver, Rapid City, Minneapolis, Miami and southern California, as well as native artists, dancers and drum groups from across Indian country.

Others are community members who see a new hope for their children. One mother told us she drove 80 miles each way from the Takini community so her son could paint in the park.

Then there are those supporters who seek only to make a contribution to ensure that the art park, and our youth project, will be here for generations to come. These are people like Keith and Ann Brundin of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Ann was an employee of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe for a number of years, but her first opportunity to visit CRYP came in late 2014, just prior to her death on December 21 at age 61.

“Some mutual friends called and said, ‘We’re bringing Ann to the Keya Cafe for supper,’” recalled Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “They wanted to know if we had a birthday cake, or if we could make her one. So I whipped up a cake really fast, and she loved it! She fell in love with CRYP and our cafe, and she loved her cake. Sadly, just a month or two later, she unexpectedly passed away.”

Ann’s husband, Keith, saw his wife’s passion for CRYP and its ongoing mission in the Cheyenne River community. After her death, he decided that he wanted to help.

“Ann loved CRYP, and what we were doing,” Garreau said. “ It was such a quick, beautiful relationship. So, after Ann’s passing, Keith set up a fund. He always calls me to ask what we need. When we spoke in early June, he said he would send $2,000 to help with the continued development of the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park.”

CRYP staff will use those much-needed funds to purchase and install additional painting surfaces, maintain fences and grounds, and continue to develop the art park’s outdoor classroom space.

“We’re so humbled by the generosity of this gift, and the spirit in which it was given,” Garreau said. “Art has tremendous power for healing and reconciliation within our community, which has been wracked by such struggles in recent years, particularly among our young people. We offer our heartfelt gratitude to Keith, and to Ann.

“This gift will make a real, lasting difference in our community — and in the lives of our young people.”