The Cheyenne River Youth Project is offering something new to its teens this year: digital media workshops at its Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute. In conjunction with Chris “Mo” Hollis and Nikki Caputo of Wingspan Media, the nonprofit youth organization is giving young people the opportunity to learn basic interviewing, video production, photography, graphic design and movie engineering.

CRYP purchased seven iPads to Waniyetu Wowapi for the digital media workshops and worked with Wingspan Media to ensure that each iPad would be configured with a suite of graphic design and video/music editing software and tools so users can produce short movie clips, music clips, internet posters and digital art.

In each workshop, Hollis and Caputo teach students how to craft their interview questions, document interviews with audio or video technology, express their personal artistic style with digital media, design posters and memes for branding, and produce video clips, short video productions and music tracks. In the process, the teens learn to use iMovie, GarageBand, Spark Post, Adobe Draw and iPad Camera. And, they learn how to access the apps and programs available to them through smartphones and tablets.

“It’s exciting to see what the kids create,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “They produce short video trailers, promotional videos and memes for CRYP, electronic music, and digital drawings. In the process, they learn graphic design, audio engineering, basic lighting, composition and framing, and post-production video and music—and perhaps most importantly, they learn innovative and edgy new ways to express themselves.”

The digital media workshops further enhance Waniyetu Wowapi’s robust, multidisciplinary curriculum, which CRYP has thoughtfully designed to give young people access to an impressive array of opportunities. As they explore their passions, they’re also sharing their stories, finding their own unique voices and even strengthening their connection to Lakota culture.

“Waniyetu Wowapi is the first and only dedicated art space for youth here on the Cheyenne River reservation,” Garreau explained. “Having that space is so important, because art is an integral piece of who we are as Lakota people. It’s how we communicate, tell our stories and practice our culture. Waniyetu Wowapi isn’t just about exposing young people to art—it’s an investment in the revitalization of our Lakota culture.”

These days, the teens who participate in Waniyetu Wowapi’s programs have the opportunity to learn contemporary arts such as fashion design and digital media. They also can strengthen their connection to Lakota culture through traditional arts, including hide tanning, ledger painting, beading, quillwork, pottery making, tipi painting and even indigenous cooking.

In the months and years to come, CRYP will add additional traditional and contemporary arts classes, including those that focus on performance, such as music, dance and the spoken word. The organization also is dedicated to cultivating and nurturing emerging artists, building the partnerships necessary to support Waniyetu Wowapi alumni as they become professional artists; further developing CRYP’s growing network of mentors, guest instructors and artists in residence; and continuing to raise awareness in the Cheyenne River community about the role the arts play in holistic wellness and healing.

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.