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Native Arts & Culture Councils Pilot Project

In 2021, the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) received a Chairman’s Extraordinary Action Award from the National Endowment for the Arts to study how tribal cultural institutions can support community artists and culture bearers. Conducted in partnership with the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the study examined how Native communities interact with artists and sought input on strategic actions for improving support. Results revealed the need for developing defined infrastructure and sustainable support for arts and culture within Native communities.

To address the need for more community support for arts and culture, the Ford Foundation awarded ATALM a two-year grant to work with existing tribal cultural institutions in seven Native communities to begin the process of establishing Native Arts & Culture Councils. ATALM found that Arts Councils exist in more than 5,000 communities across the nation, but rarely in Native communities. Arts Councils typically receive financial support from state and regional arts agencies, which enables them to provide the foundation on which vibrant arts communities are built.

The Native Arts & Culture Councils Project (NACC) was a two-year pilot program to test the efficacy of establishing Native Arts & Culture Councils on Reservation lands. Funding for NACC was provided by the Ford Foundation. Seven Native Cohort Communities were selected through a competitive application process. Priority was given to communities with an existing arts and culture presence, demonstrated support from tribal leaders, and existing cultural institutions.

Cohort Communities

The project, guided by a prestigious National Native Arts Council Advisory Committee worked to build sustainable relationships between the Native communities and the Regional/State Arts Agencies, develop training activities, and develop a long-range plan to sustain Native Arts Councils. During the project period, the Cohort Communities were provided with training, resources, and guidance from professional planning consultants through monthly Zoom meetings, as well as project-related sessions at the annual ATALM Conference. Cohort Communities were also awarded mini-grants to complete Signature Projects, which included much needed financial support towards programs and planning materials that assist in the community building process.

The NACC Project was administered by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums and advised by a National Leadership Council experienced in building community-based arts organizations, as well as staff from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Regional Arts Agencies, State Arts Agencies, and Americans for the Arts.

Resource Library

The NACC Resource Library is intended to be a valuable tool for Native American communities interested in establishing a formal arts and culture council. The library contains a variety of materials, including a toolkit, books, articles, websites, and video tutorials.

National Planning Council Members

  • Tressa Berman, Principal, Institute for Inter-Cultural Practice
  • Francene Blythe-Lewis, Executive Director, Vision Maker Media
  • Christina Burke, Principal Consultant, Burke & Associates Curatorial
  • Mary Downs, Consultant, Downs Preservation
  • Gregorio Gonzalez, Tribal Liaison, New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs 
  • Pam Korza, former Co-director, Animating Democracy at Americans for the Arts
  • Michelle Laflamme-Childs, Executive Director, New Mexico Arts 
  • Keevin Lewis, Board Member, New Mexico Humanities Council
  • Ruby Lopez Harper, Executive Director, CERF+
  • Mark Milligan, Executive Officer, Chickasaw Cultural Center
  • Michael Orlove, Director of State, Regional & Local Partnerships, National Endowment for the Arts
  • Jane Preston, Deputy Director, Programs & Co-Accessibility Coordinator, New England Foundation for the Arts
  • Jessie Ryker-Crawford, MFA Cultural Administration Program Director, Institute of American Indian Arts
  • Brian Vallo, Museum Consultant
  • Jarica Walsh, Director of Visual & Public Art, Oklahoma Arts Council
  • Valorie Walters, Under Secretary, Chickasaw Nation, Department of Culture and Humanities
  • Rick West, ATALM Board Member, Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums

Participating Regional and State Arts Agencies:

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