The fourth annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam is now in the books, and the Cheyenne River Youth Project has announced that its media production team is hard at work on a full RedCan 2018 documentary film. In the weeks leading up to its mid- to late August release, CRYP will be sharing a series of short films to give viewers an opportunity to experience the excitement, creativity and power of Indian Country’s first and only graffiti jam.

The nonprofit youth organization released its first “shorty” last week through its various social media platforms. In the film, award-winning Sicangu Lakota rapper Frank Waln (pictured here with CRYP Executive Director Julie Garreau), who grew up on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation, shares his thoughts on the RedCan experience.

“(RedCan) being the only indigenous graffiti jam in the country is a pretty big deal,” Waln notes. “I think it deserves worldwide attention, what’s happening here… I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Waln says graffiti art resonates with him, both as a Lakota man and as a hip-hop artist. Graffiti is, he observes, a founding pillar of the hip-hop movement. And, it provides a valuable creative outlet for native artists to share their stories. Until RedCan came along, however, resources were scarce for those seeking to pursue graffiti art in a meaningful way. 

Each year, RedCan draws world-class graffiti and street artists from across the country. This year, headliners included returning artists East, Wundr, Cyfi, Scape, Dwayno Insano, Siamese and Biafra, as well as first-time RedCanners Ryoe, Sadat, Hoka, Zehb, Tuke and DeKae. They produced new artwork in CRYP’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park, and large-scale murals at sites around the city of Eagle Butte.

They also worked alongside local Lakota artists like Leland Benoist and Oppose. For example, Minneapolis-based Cyfi collaborated with Benoist on a sundance-inspired mural in downtown Eagle Butte, and they worked on adjoining walls in the art park.

“As RedCan continues to evolve, we hope to see more collaborations like Cyfi’s and Leland’s,”  says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Arts education is a key part of our mission here on Cheyenne River. That means connecting our local artists with our guest artists so they can share ideas and techniques, as well as continuing to give our youth opportunities to learn new skills and to express themselves in new, healthy, positive ways.”

CRYP’s teen art interns had their own art show, which was unveiled with a special artists’ reception on June 26 and remained on display in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center throughout RedCan’s three-day run. Youth dancers shared traditional Lakota culture in the art park. Kids of all ages attended daily workshops and classes at the First Peoples’ Fund’s Rolling Rez Arts bus and at CRYP’s art activities table, and families enjoyed outdoor performances by Waln, First Peoples’ Fund’s Dances With Words, and native comedian Mylo Smith Jr.

“It’s hard to put into words what happens during RedCan,” Garreau reflects. “Each summer, our entire community is filled with this incredible, vibrant energy that comes from creating art, sharing culture, and building relationships.

“The artists leave at the end of RedCan, but their work stays with us,” she adds. “It continues to educate, inspire, and perhaps most importantly, lift us up.”

To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@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.