Member Spotlight on First Peoples Fund

During the month of February, GIA's photo banner features work and projects sponsored by First Peoples Fund. Founded in 1995, First Peoples Fund is a national native arts and entrepreneurial organization dedicated to the preservation, advancement, and well-being of American Indian arts and culture, deeply rooted in Indigenous values and place-based practices. Its mission is to honor and support the Collective Spirit® of First Peoples artists and culture bearers.

We recently asked First Peoples Fund what they are excited about.

FPF: The culture bearers and artists who are the heart of First Peoples Fund’s programs are realizing success in their entrepreneurial endeavors and deep cultural work. As a national fund committed to collaborating with Indigenous people across the country, artists today are playing an active role in helping Native peoples sustain culture, start businesses, support families, and push boundaries in the Native art world. Their creativity, ingenuity and passion are what excites us —and allows us to move deeper in our work.

This work is only possible because of the important, innovative partnerships that are formed—both with funders, and the Native artists who are the heart of our organization. Every single day, we get to see what happens when extraordinary people come together to further our mission. For instance, hip hop artist Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota) came into our First Peoples Fund family as a fellow in our Artist in Business Leadership program, and we offered funding and professional development to help him bring his amazing infusion of contemporary sound with traditional themes to the next level.

Through the Our Nation’s Spaces Program—made possible by The Ford Foundation—we introduced Frank to arts presenters across the country, where he traveled not just to perform, but also participate in master classes as part of residencies with diverse spaces representing other communities of color from Chinatown in NYC to Harlem to Arab American National Museum in Detroit and back to his home community on the Rosebud Reservation in SD. Since then, his career has taken off: performances at music festivals, appearances at The White House, new music videos, a feature on MTV’s Rebel Music television series, and most recently, writing and performing a new song commissioned by First Peoples Fund for our annual Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards.

The things gained through the cultural exchanges I had an opportunity to participate in have honestly changed my life. The exposure to other people—and other environments—opened up my whole world.  - Frank Waln, Sicangu Lakota

This year, we will continue to partner with our artists as we develop a new art center and mobile arts unit on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which will allow us to give Native artists a home to create, enable us to reach artists, families and culture bearers who may be place-bound. We are excited about 2015 bringing even more opportunities for First Peoples Fund to strengthen its relationships with culture bearers throughout our programs, working alongside them to deepen our work in Native communities from Hawaii to Maine, Alaska to South Dakota, and all points in between.

Learn more about First Peoples Fund and their grant programs.

Also, you can see all the images on our Photo Credits page.