While still searching for a full-time artistic director, the Cheyenne River Youth Project is moving ahead with its innovative new Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Arts Institute. They have already begun hosting art classes focused on traditional Lakota crafts and are laying the groundwork for additional classes and camps.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project isn’t new to offering arts instruction, but with grants from the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund and NEA Our Town Technical Assistance, the non-profit organization can start a multidisciplinary, community-based arts institute at its Eagle Butte, South Dakota campus. The Lakota Arts Institute will continue to educate students about graffiti and street art, which actually started with the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s RedCan graffiti jam two years ago. The institute will also teach traditional art skills, like painting and drawing, and a high priority will be placed on traditional Lakota arts.
“[Recently], local artist Ray Dupris taught our teens to work with hides, quills and beading, and they engaged in traditional storytelling,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, in a press release. “As Lakota people, art is deeply ingrained in our culture and history, and it remains a powerful thread within our indigenous communities. This connection to our Lakota culture through the arts is critical to healing and reconciliation, which is why it has become a vital component of what we do at the Cheyenne River Youth Project.”
For February, a new group of teen art interns will get started, and the Cheyenne River Youth Project is planning a variety of classes, workshops and trainings.
“We’re working with Rob Pyatt, the executive director of the Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative, to develop courses in architectural design for our teens,” Garreau explained. “And, in the end, we’re hoping to create our own little-house movement that will further transform our campus here in Eagle Butte.”
Cheyenne River Youth Project staff are currently looking to fill a full-time artistic director position to help make all of this possible.
“We need to find an energetic, creative, forward-thinking professional who can lead the development of the Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Arts Institute, grow our youth arts and education programming, and strengthen the connection our kids and community have with our Lakota traditions and life ways,” Garreau said. “He or she will work closely with artists, key partners and our staff on program and curriculum development, school and community outreach, classroom and group management, and artistic production.”
The Cheyenne River Youth Project is also looking for Lakota artists to be instructors and youth mentors at the Lakota Arts Institute. “Art is a way of life for us,” Garreau said. “So every art class will have a Lakota element that clearly connects the arts to Lakota culture. That is the best and most important way we can serve our young people and support them as they face the transition to adulthood.”
To learn more about the artistic director position and teaching opportunities, call Garreau at 605-964-8200 or email her at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, visit the LakotaYouth.org.
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.