Today, the Cheyenne River Youth Project officially launched the public capital campaign to fund the construction of its new Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Institute & Art Park. The campaign seeks to raise $1.5 million to complete this eagerly anticipated community art center, which will open its doors in summer 2023.
To commemorate the occasion, the grassroots, Native-led organization unveiled a new documentary film, titled “Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count).” The documentary is currently streaming at lakotayouth.org and vimeo.com/lakotayouth.
“When we commissioned this film, the intention was to share our nearly 34-year journey in arts programming through the vibrant lens of our annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam,” explained Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “It turned into so much more than that. The film is an opportunity to come into the heart of our circle, where you’ll meet our kids, parents, elders, artists, and partners — and share in our joy and excitement as we reveal our next leap forward.”
That leap is the new art center. The film captures the official groundbreaking ceremony on July 9, 2021, and it conveys the significance of curating this creative and sacred space on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
“That’s our most important message, the one we really want people to understand and embrace,” Garreau said. “As we often say, there is no word for ‘art’ in Lakota. When we are being artistic, we are being cultural. We are revitalizing our language, our ceremonies, our life ways.
“That’s why we love the name ‘Waniyetu Wowapi’ so much,” she continued. “This is our own contemporary winter count, a place where we can share our stories, our truths, and messages to our people. Long term, that means healthier, more resilient children and families.”
Designed by Boulder, Colorado-based Ferguson Pyatt Architects, the new art center will incorporate circular exhibition galleries, a photography dark room, a recording studio, a screen-printing studio, a pottery studio with kiln room, multipurpose space with doors opening to the outside, individual artists’ studios, and much more. What’s more, the building will be net zero, meaning it will produce as much or more energy than it uses in a year.
Not only will Cheyenne River’s youth have opportunities to learn and grow here, the new facility also will welcome local artists and community members as instructors and mentors.
“We want this to be a community gathering place, where people of all ages can come together to learn from one another and support each other,” Garreau said. “We’ll also encourage our artists to share their work on the building itself, to make it live and breathe with creative energy that reflects our people.”
The innovative Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Institute & Art Park is made possible through a $2.5 million grant from #StartSmall, Jack Dorsey’s philanthropic initiative. Dorsey is CEO of Block Inc. (formerly known as Square), former CEO of Twitter, and cofounder of both. He first became acquainted with CRYP in 2017, when Square commissioned the short film “Lakota in America,” and he traveled to Eagle Butte for the film’s premiere that fall.
“Arts Midwest, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Schmidt Family Foundation/11th Hour Project also have provided valuable support to date,” Garreau said. “For your trust and faith in us, Wópila Táŋka Ečíčiyepi. We are deeply grateful.”
For more information about the art center project, and to make a contribution to the public capital campaign, visit:
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 www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project is dedicated to giving our Lakota youth and families access to the culturally relevant, enriching, and enduring opportunities we need to build stronger, healthier communities and a more vibrant future together.