My recent posts on ARTSblog have focused on public art created by Native American artists. Here, I turn my focus to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF), a national arts service organization. Having served on NACF’s National Leadership Council, I have had the opportunity to participate in gatherings with Native artists, served on their grant review panels, and worked closely with their board and staff. I also have spoken about their work at national meetings for both Americans for the Arts and Association for Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums. For me, the highlight has been attending NACF public programs over the years to see the work of Native American artists. I have seen up close how deeply committed the foundation’s work is to both the artists and communities they serve.

Founded in 2008, with start-up funding of $10 million from the Ford Foundation, NACF supports Indigenous artists, culture bearers, and Native-led arts organizations through fellowships and project funding. Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee), who served as Ford’s Program Officer in Media, Arts, and Culture from 2003 to 2010, provided key leadership in establishing NACF. Other Native leaders and artists were involved from the get-go: the civil rights lawyer Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), poet and musician Joy Harjo (Muscokee-Creek), museum director and artist Elizabeth Woody (Yakama Nation Wasco descent and Citizen of Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs), and singer, artist, and educator Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree First Nation of Canada), among others. It’s powerful to have such dynamic and creative national and community-based leaders setting the stage for NACF’s work.

As NACF continues it work supporting Native artists and tribal communities throughout the country, the organization is currently in the early stages of developing a major cultural facility and new headquarters: the Center for Native Arts and Cultures in southeast Portland, Oregon.

On February 26, 2021, NACF received the gift of the Yale Union Laundry Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. NACF’s vision for the Center is to create a “vibrant gathering place” for Indigenous artists as a convening ground for cultural ceremonies and celebrations; as an incubator for Native artists to create; and as a venue for presenting contemporary exhibitions and performances, workshops, and seminars.

Read the full article about the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation by John W. Haworth at Americans for the Arts.