On April 27-29, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® welcomed Boulder, Colorado-based Pyatt Studio to its Eagle Butte campus for a three-day, intensive “Introduction to Architecture & Design” workshop. Rob Pyatt, principal and design director, and fellow designer Walt Pourier spent three days with 13 teen art interns who currently are pursuing their arts education through CRYP’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Arts Institute.

The intensive workshop familiarized the interns with architectural and design thinking, and it provided critical instruction in a variety of representational tools and media, including freehand drawing and basic model-making techniques. All interns received an official Certificate of Completion from Pyatt Studio and CRYP.

During their three days with Pyatt and Pourier, the interns developed local, relevant and personally meaningful design projects, and they explored aspects of architecture and design that aligned with their individual interests. They also learned about design research, communicating design ideas through drawing, testing designs through physical models, working collaboratively and sharing their design ideas with others.

“We were honored to host Pyatt Studio, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer this sort of opportunity to our teen art interns,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Rob and Walt really encouraged our young people to engage in the design of built environments that are significant to their community—and that creatively address specific needs right here in Eagle Butte.”

Youth Programs Coordinator Jerica Widow-Rivers witnessed the brainstorming session dedicated to the teens’ hometown.

“On the white board, all the interns wrote about the cultural significance for each of their buildings and the names for those buildings,” she recalled. “At the end of that session, the teens had some homework: to think about their buildings and the floor plans they would draw the next day, as they would have to present their buildings to the entire group.”

The teens definitely had creative ideas for addressing community needs through built environments. Some discussed the restoration of current buildings, such as Eagle Butte’s public swimming pool, arcade and outdoor basketball courts. Others were enthusiastic about new buildings, including a poetry and music lounge, a Lakota language and culture center, a craft store, a laser-tag venue, a water park and a tech repair store.

“They got into teams of two, and they made floor plans that they presented to everyone at the end of the third day,” Widow-Rivers said. “The majority of the interns put Lakota culture into their buildings, and it was awesome to see the instructors encourage so much creativity in the kids.”

The teenagers were equally impressed with the experience.

“Rob’s questions make me think of what is missing in my community, and who can help us make the buildings,” said intern Jason White Horse.

“I viewed my room differently after the first class, and I had fun thinking of a Lakota language and culture center with art and books for all of us kids,” said intern Mackenzie West.

Intern Roberta High Elk also said she felt inspired by the workshop’s collaborative atmosphere.

“I came up with a list of things I’d like to see in a craft store, and a lot of the other interns could use those things in their building ideas, so we all can help each other out,” she explained. “It was a good reminder to be connected.”

Pyatt Studio is dedicated to promoting more livable communities and empowering the next generation of designers and builders. For Rob Pyatt and his group, it’s all about fostering teamwork across cultures and backgrounds so communities gain more than just new buildings; they gain a better quality of life, and hope.

“We were all inspired by Pyatt Studio’s vision—designing for people and place,” Garreau said. “It was wonderful to see how our teen art interns were touched by it, too. They said they all want the instructors to come back, and they admitted that they enjoyed being motivated this way.”

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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.