Washington State boosts art commission

SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. - American Indian children will develop public art working with professional artists; others will work with tribal elders to adapt traditional stories and legends for the stage. Emerging Native artists will get residencies and work with established artists to enhance their skills.

These are a few of the programs being funded in Washington by the state's Arts Commission. Four Native programs are among the 10 being funded through a grant from the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds and the National Endowment for the Arts. There were 80 applicants for funding.

The grant is offered to explore new ways to increase arts participation in communities that are ethnic, rural, disabled or low-income. Organizations strengthen their relationships with supporters and artists, and expand cultural offerings to their communities. At the same time, the commission learns new ways for interacting with these communities.

"We are interested in finding new ways to reach all citizens in our state," said Kris Tucker, commission executive director. "The Wallace Participation Initiative goal is to reach and involve a wider diversity of community members of all ages, races and abilities in meaningful arts experiences as audiences, participating artists or arts supporters."

Each program will receive $6,000 annually for three years:

*Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, Evergreen State College, Olympia - The center will develop artist residencies so emerging Native artists can work with established artists to enhance technical skills and establish artist networks. The center will also document and promote individual artist's work and enhance professional Native artist development in Spokane, Colville and other eastern Washington areas.

*Northwest Children's Theater, LaConner - American Indian children and teens, working with Upper Skagit and Lummi tribal elders, will adapt traditional stories and legends to the stage in Skagit Valley. Known as "The Story Project," it will focus on developing self-esteem and cultural pride through writing and performing the works as well as drumming, basketry, carving and traditional costuming.

*Northwest Learning and Achievement Group Educational Center, Wapato - Latino and American Indian middle and high school students will work with three artists for year-long art studies. They will collaborate with the artists to design, produce and install public art in Wapato. Artists are Lynn DiNino, Caldwell Studios, and Wapato artist Chris Klebaum.

*Yakama Nation Library, Toppenish - The library will preserve Yakama oral tradition through recording and archiving stories, develop multigenerational storytelling programs, organize tribal radio broadcasts and dramatic performances of the Plateau culture "Coyote," and organize story-telling at the Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center and reservation schools.

The arts commission also will develop a statewide arts learning network in order to study, share best practices, develop arts leadership and document project success. Each organization's leadership team, comprising staff, board members, artists and/or volunteers, will attend annual training sessions under the Wallace Initiative.

"We had more than 80 organizations from our state apply to this program," said Mayumi Tsutakawa, initiative manager. "That shows the interest that community-based cultural organizations have in boosting arts participation. We expect a statewide as well as organizational benefit from this project."

The state arts commission was established in 1961 to support the arts as essential elements in the state's social, educational and economic growth, and to contribute to Washington's quality of life and the well-being of its citizens. The agency focuses on four primary areas: building participation in the arts, strengthening arts organizations, managing the State Art Collection, and supporting the arts as part of basic education.

The commission is governed by 19 governor-appointed members and four state legislators.

For more information about these and other programs, visit www.arts.wa.gov.

Today correspondent Richard Walker reports from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at (360) 378-6289 or irishmex 2000@yahoo.com