The Cheyenne River Youth Project’s 6th annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam was groundbreaking for more than one reason. This year, not only did the award-winning event broadcast live from eight cities across America to viewers around the world, it included a graduation ceremony for CRYP’s first cohort of Lakota Art Fellows.
In a special afternoon broadcast on Friday, Aug. 14, viewers watched Emanual Semon, 18, and Kailey Carter, 16, receive their certificates of completion and their gifts from CRYP Executive Director Julie Garreau, Youth Programs Director Jerica Widow, and Youth Arts Director Tyler Read. This was the culmination of a nearly 10-month journey that began last October.
“This was a very special evening for us, to see the first two art students complete the fellowship,” Garreau said. “It was even more special because Emanual and Kailey are both fantastic students and truly wonderful human beings.”
CRYP created the Lakota Art Fellowship so it could provide opportunities for teens on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation who have an interest in pursuing careers in the arts. To apply for the fellowship, a young person first must complete multiple art internships through the youth project’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute.
Lakota Arts Fellows work on their skills in a variety of disciplines, including graffiti art, digital arts, traditional arts, sculpture, stenciling, graphic arts, and screen printing. In addition, they learn about the business side of art, with classes that include public speaking, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and merchandising.
During their fellowship, Carter and Semon also had the opportunity to explore the impact of public art, discover how art can foster healing in communities, and learn how youth leadership can make a difference in those communities. To supplement their learning at CRYP, staff members took the duo on an arts field trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and to a youth leadership summit in Albuquerque.
“It was such an honor to join these two young people on this journey,” Read said. “To watch them grow in confidence and skills, and to witness how they found a way to flourish despite the obstacles the Covid-19 pandemic put in their way starting in March — I’ll never forget it.”
Following the ceremony, Carter briefly addressed the crowd, which included the small, socially distanced gathering outside CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) and the much larger viewing audience watching via Facebook and YouTube. In her remarks, she reflected on how time flies when you’re learning and having fun at the same time, and unfortunately, how Covid-19 caused some difficult breaks in that process.
“There were so many ups and downs because of the pandemic,” she said. “When we had to take a break, I found myself sad and unmotivated at home. Here, it’s always happy times.
“This fellowship helped me grow as an artist,” she continued. “It also helped me grow as a person. I’ll always be grateful.”
“Kailey speaks about how much this fellowship gave her, but I have to say, she and Emanual gave us so much back,” Garreau said. “We learn every single day from our kids. We’re going to miss seeing these two every day, but they’re part of us now.”
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@lakotayouth and @waniyetuwowapi).
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.