The Cheyenne River Youth Project® is moving ahead quickly with its plans for the innovative new Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Arts Institute. Not only has it embarked on a widespread search for a full-time artistic director to manage LAI operations and Lakota artists to serve as instructors and youth mentors, it is already hosting art classes focused on traditional Lakota crafts and is laying the groundwork for additional classes and camps.
The nonprofit youth organization has offered arts instruction to 4- to 12-year-olds throughout its nearly 30-year history, and to teens for the last decade. Now, thanks to grants from the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund and NEA Our Town Technical Assistance, CRYP finally has the resources to realize its vision of a multidisciplinary, community-based arts institute at its Eagle Butte campus.
In the beginning, LAI will continue to support students in graffiti and street art education, a process that began more than two years ago with dedicated art classes and the inaugural RedCan graffiti jam. It also will teach traditional art skills, such as drawing and painting, and it will place a high priority on traditional Lakota arts.
“Last week, local artist Ray Dupris taught our teens to work with hides, quills and beading, and they engaged in traditional storytelling,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “As Lakota people, art is deeply ingrained in our culture and history, and it remains a powerful thread within our indigenous communities. This connection to our Lakota culture through the arts is critical to healing and reconciliation, which is why it has become a vital component of what we do at the Cheyenne River Youth Project.”
As a new cohort of teen art interns gets started this month, CRYP is planning a variety of additional classes, workshops and trainings—including a spring graffiti art camp and a sustainable housing initiative.
“We’re working with Rob Pyatt, the executive director of the Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative, to develop courses in architectural design for our teens,” Garreau explained. “And, in the end, we’re hoping to create our own little-house movement that will further transform our campus here in Eagle Butte.”
CRYP staff have already hosted a community meeting to gather feedback from Cheyenne River community members, answer questions and address concerns. And, they are eager to find the right person to join the team as artistic director.
“We need to find an energetic, creative, forward-thinking professional who can lead the development of the Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Arts Institute, grow our youth arts and education programming, and strengthen the connection our kids and community have with our Lakota traditions and life ways,” Garreau said. “He or she will work closely with artists, key partners and our staff on program and curriculum development, school and community outreach, classroom and group management, and artistic production.”
In addition, CRYP is actively seeking Lakota artists to serve as instructors and youth mentors within LAI.
“Again, art is a way of life for us,” Garreau noted. “So every art class will have a Lakota element that clearly connects the arts to Lakota culture. That is the best and most important way we can serve our young people and support them as they face the transition to adulthood.”
To learn more about the artistic director position and available teaching opportunities, contact Garreau directly at (605) 964-8200 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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.