The Cheyenne River Youth Project is proud to introduce its third cohort of Lakota Art Fellows. They are: Emma Berndt, 13; Sarah Berndt, 15; Karyn Diver, 14; Nathan Metcalf, 17; Hazen Moran, 13; and Bree Running Bear, 13.
CRYP created the Lakota Art Fellowship in 2019 so it could provide advanced opportunities for teens on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation who have an interest in pursuing careers in the arts. All candidates have completed internships through the nonprofit youth project’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Institute & Art Park.
“We chose these candidates based on their performance in the internships,” said Wakinyan Chief, CRYP’s art manager. “They had good attendance records, they stayed on task, they completed and turned in assignments on time, and they outperformed their fellow interns in terms of the volume and quality of their artwork.
“We also looked at their passion for art and their drive,” he added. “Several of them were teen artists at this year’s RedCan invitational graffiti jam, and they impressed our featured artists. Plus, all the candidates know what types of careers they want to pursue, and the earlier than can start working toward their goals, the better — that will help them stay focused in high school.”
During this intensive nine-month program, the teens will develop their skills in a variety of disciplines, including graffiti art, digital arts, traditional arts, stenciling, graphic arts, and screen printing. In addition, they are learning about the business side of art, with classes that include public speaking, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and merchandising.
They also will have opportunities to explore the impact of public art, and discover how art can foster healing in communities. Those opportunities will involve virtual and real-life explorations of art institutions and public art in other communities. Through these experiences, the Lakota Art Fellows will learn how their youth leadership can help make a difference at home on Cheyenne River.
One such opportunity arrived on Saturday, Sept. 16. The teens visited the South Dakota Art Museum at South Dakota State University in Brookings, where they saw “Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe.”
A Yanktonai Dakota artist, Howe passed away in 1983. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian noted that Howe was one of the 20th century’s most innovative Native American painters, committing his artistic career to the preservation, relevance and ongoing expression of his Yanktonai Dakota culture.
The visiting Cheyenne River teens remarked that it was impactful to see Howe’s work and to see a Native American artist highlighted this way. They also said it motivated them to create their own work.
“This was the first art museum I’ve ever been to, and I liked it,” Running Bear said. “It was cool, seeing all the different types of art pieces, and the way he utilized colors and shapes.”
“I really liked how he expressed motion, emotion and history,” Moran said. “He did it in a cool way that made me feel his art.”
Metcalf noted that the exhibit’s vibes were “very cool and chill.” He also said he appreciated Howe’s ability to be different, and to just be himself.
“I want to know more about him and how he thought,” he explained. “He captures movement, and when you stand far away, you can see his abstract paintings come to life.”
At press time, the Lakota Art Fellows were writing about their experiences in Brookings. Learning to communicate clearly and effectively in writing is another skill they will learn during the months to come.
“They really got into the exhibit and were so inspired by it,” Chief said. “I’m excited to see how this experience influences their art, and I can’t wait to see what they write about.”