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News Release

Cheyenne River Youth Project

The Cheyenne River Youth Project is pleased to announce that it is building a dedicated home for its acclaimed Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute. The grassroots, nonprofit organization will break ground for its new art center during RedCan 2021, scheduled for July 7-10.

The Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute began with the unveiling of Cheyenne River Youth Project’s free public art park in 2014, and the inaugural RedCan event a year later. Today, the institute also includes teen art internships and a nine-month Lakota Art Fellowship program.

The country has taken notice. RedCan received Americans for the Arts’ prestigious Robert E. Gard Award in 2017, and it was one of 50 projects honored through Americans for the Arts’ PAN Year in Review. That same year, Executive Director Julie Garreau received the Americans for the Arts’ Arts Education Award. Now, the Native- and woman-led organization is ready to take its arts programming to the next level.

“We’ll be releasing additional details about the building in the coming weeks,” Garreau said, “but first, we wish to share this news with our community and invite them to be part of the process with us, as we always have.”

Indeed, Cheyenne River Youth Project consulted with the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation community when it moved from The Main, its original 1988 youth center, to a new facility for 4- to 12-year-olds in 1999. It did the same when it prepared to open the doors of its state-of-the-art Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center in 2006.

“We have always let our kids lead the way,” Garreau explained. “For nearly 33 years, they consistently shown us that art is vital to their long-term health and well-being. For Lakota people, art is life. It’s a fundamental part of who we are, and how we share our culture, our stories, our voices, and our truth.”

Cheyenne River Youth Project has always offered arts and crafts programs after school, on weekends, and during summer breaks at The Main and Cokata Wiconi. That naturally evolved into dedicated arts camps, workshops, teen internships, and community-wide events like RedCan.

“We knew arts programming would resonate with our young people, but we had no idea that it would take off the way it did,” Garreau said. “We’ve outgrown our existing art facilities. We need a dedicated facility that can incorporate individual art studios, classrooms, and exhibition spaces; professional-grade equipment for pottery, sculpture, screen printing, and photography; and multipurpose gathering spaces, both indoors and outdoors. Our kids are so ready for this.”

Cheyenne River Youth Project is inviting community members to share their feedback and ideas in a series of socially distant meetings at Cokata Wiconi next week. The youth meeting will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 30; the community-wide meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 31; and elders are invited to attend at 12 p.m. on Thursday, Apr. 1. Meals will be served at each gathering.

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 Cheyenne River Youth Project news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

About Cheyenne River Youth Project

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.

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