The Cheyenne River Youth Project’s 9th annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam on July 5-8 was one for the record books. The award-winning event’s attendance exceeded pre-pandemic levels, attracting hundreds of people — including the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts — to the five large-scale murals taking shape across Eagle Butte and to CRYP’s public Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park.
The nonprofit youth organization announced today that more than 800 people visited the five mural sites during RedCan’s two community-painting days to watch the graffiti jam’s 10 featured artists at work: East, Cyfi, Hoka, Biafra, Wundr, 179, TamiJoy, Yukue, Rezmo and Desi Mundo. Many community members also took the time to speak with the artists and their assistants, who comprised CRYP teen art interns and volunteers.
Comments included “Love it,” “Looks cool,” “Great job, guys,” and “It looks so much better than what was there before.” Some mural visitors also remarked on the importance of RedCan to the community as a whole, commenting, “We want more walls painted.”
“We estimate that we have produced more than 100 murals since we started RedCan in 2015, many of which are still with us today,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “It’s been a powerful experience, filling our community with transformative public art — art that continues to celebrate our Lakota language, stories and culture long after the artists have gone home.
“People definitely have their favorites,” she continued. “There is always some sadness when an old mural is buffed to prepare for something new, but that sadness is mixed with anticipation, because people can’t wait to see what comes next.”
She observed that CRYP receives a lot of comments about the “Greetings from Eagle Butte” mural in town, created by Minneapolis-based artists Biafra and Wundr in 2018. The dynamic piece has a nostalgic feel, along the lines of a mid-20th century postcard.
“People are always asking us to please preserve that one, because they love it so much,” Garreau said. “They’re proud of it — and, by extension, proud of our community. That means everything to us, because it shows that RedCan does uplift our community. It’s part of who we are now.”
CRYP also announced that 562 youth attended arts and crafts activities during the four days of RedCan. Saturday was by far the most popular day, with 259 children making spin art, magic spinners, graffiti stencils, frozen T-shirts, water rings, “calm down” jars and sock puppets; they also painted skateboards and worked on their own creations in the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park.
“Friday and Saturday are always fun days, because our featured artists are painting in the art park alongside our teens and younger children,” said Jerica Widow, CRYP’s programs director. “On Friday, they also were painting alongside a very special guest.”
That day, CRYP was proud to welcome Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, NEA chair. During her visit, the chair enjoyed a tour of the Eagle Butte mural sites, a private viewing of CRYP’s award-winning documentary “Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count),” and a painting session in the art park.
On Friday and Saturday evening, CRYP hosted free community dinners in the art park. Volunteers from the University of Missouri-St. Louis hosted the first meal, with CRYP staff hosting the second.
“We served meals to more than 600 people during those two evenings,” Widow reported. “Those are the largest numbers we’ve ever seen in the history of RedCan.”
After the meals, attendees watched live performances on the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park stage. The Wake Singers, an Oglala Lakota rock band comprising cousins Douglas, Michael and Reed Two Bulls, took the stage on Friday night. Crow Creek Dakota rap artist, producer and sound designer Bazille performed on Saturday evening, followed by acclaimed hoop dancers The Sampson Brothers.
As always, the Cheyenne River-based Wakinyan Maza drum group opened and closed each day of RedCan with a prayer, smudging and drum song for all who wished to participate.
To view the “Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count)” documentary and CRYP’s recent mini-documentary “RedCan: Changing the Narrative,” visit vimeo.com/lakotayouth.
To learn more about this year’s RedCan artists and performers, visit www.lakotayouth.org/redcan.
And 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, 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.