A new foundation dedicated to supporting the work of Native American artists has been launched with a $10 million commitment from the Ford Foundation, the New York Times reports.
The Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, the first permanently endowed national foundation dedicated to developing and revitalizing Native American artistic expression, will work to foster indigenous arts in American Indian, native Hawaiian, and Alaska native communities by awarding grants to artists and arts organizations, supporting native arts leadership, and partnering with other native-led efforts to increase financial support for indigenous arts and cultures. The Portland-based foundation, which also received a $1.5 million grant and additional $1.5 million commitment from the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians near Sacramento, will be led by president and CEO Tara Lulani Arquette, a native Hawaiian and longtime advocate for native communities who most recently was president and executive director of the Honolulu-based Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
The foundation hopes to provide about $4 million in grants and program services over the next five years and will begin making grants later this year or early in 2010, board chair Walter Echo-Hawk, a Pawnee, told the Times. The ultimate goal, said Echo-Hawk, is to establish a permanent endowment of about $20 million over the next five years and increase that figure over time. "Arts and culture and traditional languages and religions have been the glue that held Native Americans together, often in the face of great adversity," he added.
"We needed our own endowment for native arts and culture in this country," said Elizabeth Theobald Richards, a program officer at Ford who has overseen the project and who is a Cherokee. "The indigenous peoples...have an incredible wealth of cultural heritage and cultural expression that very few people know about. And it's also incredibly underfunded."