The Cheyenne River Youth Project announced today that its Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute is preparing to welcome its 2021-22 cohort of Lakota Art Fellows to campus on Oct. 5. The institute also graduated its most recent cohort of teen art interns on Friday, Sept. 17, after several busy weeks of education, creation, and mentoring.
The Lakota Art Fellowship is a nine-month program for a cohort of five carefully selected young people. CRYP launched the fellowship program in 2019, seeking to provide opportunities for teens on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation who have an interest in pursuing advanced arts education and careers in the arts.
To be considered for the fellowship, a young person must have completed at least one art internship, or art classes at the high school level. If the student has received arts and crafts training at home from a Lakota artist, that is an acceptable qualification as well .
According to Julie Garreau, executive director, the Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute graduated its first two Lakota Art Fellows during the virtual RedCan invitational graffiti jam in August 2020. Due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, staff opted to postpone the second cohort and are now eagerly awaiting the return of the fellowship program.
“The Covid-19 pandemic erupted halfway through our first fellowship, and it was our honor to watch these young Lakota leaders and culture bearers grow and flourish despite the obstacles they faced,” Garreau said. “We’re all looking forward to welcoming our new cohort to our campus in October.”
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.
Through guest instructors and thoughtfully curated field trips, the fellows also will have 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. The curriculum is designed to build upon that of CRYP’s long-running teen art internship program.
“Through our art internships, our teens have opportunities to explore graffiti and street art, fine art, and traditional Lakota arts,” Garreau explained. “They also are introduced to arts education, develop professional skills, and learn what career opportunities in the arts might look like.
“We also provide mentoring opportunities through our guest instructors,” she continued. “In August, our most recent cohort took graffiti art classes with Tsel, one of our RedCan 2021 artists, who also taught stencil-making and screen-printing techniques. This month, they learned to make parfleche jewelry with Lakota artist Mike Marshall.”
An enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Tribe, Marshall (pictured here) was born in Rosebud, South Dakota. Drawing on his cultural heritage, he incorporates natural materials in the objects he makes, much as his ancestors did. He uses hides, bone, beads and paints, creating art objects that are both utilitarian and decorative. His work is highly sought-after by collectors as well as cultural facilities; a collection of his Lakota games are on display at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Marshall learned the art of making traditional Lakota craft primarily through hands-on experience and guidance from the treasures of the past, from which he draws his inspiration. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1999 from the Site Gleska Art Institute in Mission, South Dakota, and as a result of this formal education in the arts, Marshall has expanded his artistry to include batiks, watercolors, and stone sculptures.
When asked if his work is contemporary or traditional, he says, “I jump around from strong traditional to modern abstraction. (It represents) bonds to the past, but with my personal view of understanding our culture.”
According to Garreau, CRYP has long since outgrown its art studio in the Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) teen center. This summer, she and her team officially broke ground for a new youth arts center that will sit at the heart of the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park. This new facility will provide a physical home for the entire Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute, including the Lakota Art Fellowship and teen art internship programs.
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 (/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.