Last month, I was given the incredible opportunity to attend a First People’s Fund Professional Development Workshop in Minneapolis, Minnesota on behalf of Alternate ROOTS.
“Founded in 1995, First Peoples Fund’s mission is to honor and support the creative community-centered First Peoples artists; and nurture the collective spirit® that allows them to sustain their peoples. [Their] vision is to communicate to the world the roots and philosophy of Indigenous artistic expression and its relationship to the collective spirit of First Peoples. [They] strive to provide support and voice to the creative Indigenous artists who share their inspiration, wisdom, knowledge and gifts with their communities.”
The workshop was attended by recent FPF grantees who were recognized for their artistic excellence, their commitment to sustaining the cultural values of native people and for their potential as entrepreneurial artists to cultivate their practices into small businesses. There were artists from a variety of disciplines- actually each person was skilled in many disciplines- and almost every region of the United States was represented. There was a Blackfeet Writer from Seattle, a Master Pasamaquoddy Basket Weaver from Maine, a Choctaw Potter from Oklahoma, a Lakota Artist from South Dakota who creates traditional horse armor, an Oneida Comedian from Wisconsin and others, including myself… A Lumbee Community Artist / new ROOTer from Baltimore.
The trip proved to be an invaluable experience. Not only did it serve to reconfirm my belief that the degree of separation between all Indian people is about 2 at greatest (as opposed to the normal 6), it reminded me that my drive to do the work that I do comes from a cultural place and understanding.
Our discussion was opened with the First People’s Fund core values of “Generosity, Respect, Integrity, Strength, Fortitude, Humility, Wisdom, and Community-mindedness.” These values are required for participation in all FPF programs, were implemented as guiding principals over the course of our time together and are, of course, all values that we ascribe to as contributing members of Indigenous communities.
We launched into an intensive two-day series of workshops containing practical information that was never given to me during my time in art school and would be useful to any artist. Basic business and financial literacy skills were presented to us in a culturally specific and accessible way. We were also given business planning and self-assessment tools, budgeting forms, money management and pricing tools (with actual formulas), as well as marketing tools. All of these workshops were interspersed with artist presentations, Q&A sessions with foundation/grant-making experts and a world-renowned “Arts Attorney” who taught us about legal issues concerning intellectual property. For example, did you realize that you, yourself can legally place a © or a ™ on your work and this gives fair notice to the world that it’s your intellectual property (without filing any paperwork)? All of the knowledge that we received could easily be applied to a for-profit artistic practice or a non-profit organization that supports the work of artists.
The work that First People’s Fund does falls neatly in line with the Mission of Alternate ROOTS- to support the creation and presentation of original art, in all its forms, which is rooted in a particular community of place, tradition or spirit. It was interesting for me to see that all of the artwork done by the FPF grantees is rooted in Social Justice as well as the protection of the natural world, whether the art form was traditional or contemporary!
There is no doubt in my mind that a continued relationship between the two organizations would be logical and mutually beneficial. I am making a personal commitment to encourage more Native American artists who live and work within the geographic area that ROOTS serves to become members of ROOTS and to also apply to First People’s Fund as appropriate. I hope that additional opportunities for exchange between ROOTS and FPF will be created. There is much to learn and share
James Star Comes Out shares his Artist in Business Leadership grant project with us at the Cowles Center for Performing Arts. ‘Our values are a tool to manage our lives…they strengthen us to accomplish anything we want.’ – James Star Comes Out Photo by Miranne Walker.
Group Shot, Photo by Miranne Walker.