Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Announces Its Distinguished 2015 National Artist Fellowship Awardees

VANCOUVER, Wash., Aug. 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — For the fifth year, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) awards its distinguished National Artist Fellowship to a new group of talented, recognizable and promising artists. Thirteen awardees were selected from a national open call of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artist applicants who were meticulously reviewed by a panel of invited art experts. Awards were made in five art categories namely the Visual arts, Traditional arts, Performing arts, Literature and Music. The awarded artists come from several states and the District of Columbia: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Washington.

“This year’s National Artist Fellows are awe-inspiring and we are excited to be recognizing and honoring some of America’s highly praised Native artists through these Fellowships,” says the foundation’s Director of Programs Francene Blythe. “We hold in the highest esteem such an amazing pool of artists who are provocative, outspoken and challenge their imaginations to ever new heights of ingenuity, which invigorates their work.”

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) National Artist Fellowship gives a monetary award that assists with support in order to provide Native artists the opportunity to explore and experiment with new creative projects and further develop their artistic careers. NACF is grateful for the support of the Ford Foundation and the generosity of arts patrons for making these national fellowships possible.

2015 National Artist Fellows:

Visual Arts

  • James Luna, Luiseño/Diegueño
  • Anna Tsouhlarakis, Navajo/Creek
  • Frank Big Bear, White Earth Ojibwe

Traditional Arts

  • Clarissa Rizal, Tlingit
  • David Boxley, Tsimshian
  • Kelly Church, Grand Traverse Band Ottawa and Chippewa


  • Stephen Blanchett, Yup’ik
  • Lehua Kalima, Native Hawaiian
  • Starr Kalahiki, Native Hawaiian


  • Layli Long Soldier, Oglala Sioux
  • Laura Da’, Eastern Shawnee
  • Linda Hogan, Chickasaw

Performing Arts

  • Martha Redbone, Cherokee/Shawnee/Choctaw descent

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s mission is to promote the revitalization, appreciation and perpetuation of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian arts and cultures through grant making, convening and advocacy. To date, NACF has supported more than 150 artists and organizations in more than 24 states and Native communities nationwide. To learn more about the National Artist Fellows and NACF’s work—nurturing the passion and power of creative expression, visit:

Media Contact: Liz Hill (808) 856-6012 /
Rupert Ayton (360) 314-2421 /

Why Indigenous arts and Hawaii artists matter


Crab Hula by Patrick Makuakane

Dawn Morais Huffington post


Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) President and CEO T. Lulani Arquette is visibly moved as she describes how the audience responded to the innovative work of Christopher Kaui Morgan at the 2013 Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement Conference. “There was a palpable thrill in the room, a sense that we were witnessing something new and exciting. This is the kind of work we want to encourage,” she says. Not yet four years since it began funding, NACF has made significant investments to nurture native artistic expression, celebrate culture and engage communities. These investments help keep tradition alive — but also help indigenous artists push past old forms and break new ground.

That clearly is what makes the work of NACF so significant. This isn’t just about feeding struggling artists. Underlying everything NACF does is the conviction that native artists and culture-bearers play a vital role in enlivening the community. Through its mission and its outreach, its grants and the platforms it provides for creative expression and collaboration, NACF attests to the importance of the artist as both voice and conscience, healing and keeping alive the hope of a better, more just world.

Native artists cannot always turn swords into plowshares. But they at least give us the beauty of art in place of the brokenness that we see all around us. Native artists, like artists everywhere, give so generously to us all simply through their creativity. We owe it to them — and to ourselves — to give back in some measure what they have given us in priceless cultural treasure. –Arquette

NACF hopes that those who wish to put their wealth to work will see in the work of the Foundation the prospect of a return on investment that is more significant than what the market can offer. Founding NACF Board Member Elizabeth A. Woody (Navajo/Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama) explains: “The act of giving was part of the ‘gifting economy’ of the Northwest where one’s wealth was measured by generosity, good work and a good heart.” That’s not unlike the spirit that moves those who engage in philanthropy. Thanks to that spirit of giving, donors across the country have allowed NACF to help 85 Native artists and organizations across 22 states. Awardees were part of over 300 events and activities, creating opportunities for 46,000 participants and taking the beauty and power of Native arts and cultures to nearly 850,000 people.

Individual Fellowships
Individual grants of up to $20,000 each help native artists continue to practice what has been handed down to them while also moving beyond to open up new ways of seeing the world. Time-honored ways of defining our shared humanity are preserved while new prisms are created through which to see and understand. Powerful voices are amplified in visual arts, music, dance, literature, film and traditional arts.

Community-Based Initiatives
People are not generally aware of the urgent need to map and secure ancestral arts and practices before they are lost forever. Nearly $380,000 has been given to grantees, some tied to universities, for this purpose. Apprenticeships, teaching, participation in youth programs and festivals also help ensure the transmittal of traditional skills to the next generation. This support seeds the ground for ongoing collaborations and exchanges, such as residencies, arts conferences and dialogue across native art disciplines.

Capacity-Building Initiatives
NACF creates partnerships between artists, tribal entities and nonprofit organizations. The spirit behind these partnerships is the recognition that the work of the artist is a lens through which to help the community understand and engage collaboratively in addressing issues vital to the well-being of the community.

Proven leadership in offering broad-based arts services including arts grants, professional development for artists, and market opportunities for Native artists has led NACF to make an investment of nearly $300,000 in organizations positioned to help artists in these ways. In Hawai`i, the Pa`i Foundation received a NACF grant to support their work as part of a group dedicated to recovering the language, cultural traditions, healing practices, voyaging, and agricultural practices of the Native Hawaiians, now a minority in their ancestral land.

Arquette is particularly proud to see artists in her native Hawai`i recognized, and is gearing up to announce new initiatives in 2014.

2014-01-08-NACFTLulaniArquette-thumb“Our grants go towards helping artists address issues such as cultural equity, land and water rights, food sovereignty, and Native knowledge,” she said. NACF artists received a Bessie Award for Outstanding Dance Production, had an exhibit at the 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia, and are taking their film to the national festival circuit and PBS. “This kind of recognition inspires others to help keep the arts alive through their own artistic endeavors — or through their financial support,” she added.

The NACF website offers several examples of the work of artists NACF has supported. “We need the voices of our Native artists and culture-makers. They help make us wiser and more compassionate towards each other, ” said Arquette.

Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Nonprofit supports Native arts


December 6, 2013 By Scott Hewitt

The Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

T. Lulani Arquette
T. Lulani Arquette

T. Lulani Arquette believes that the original, nature-based values of Native American peoples still have a lot to teach a Western culture that she said is teetering on the edge of suicide.

She’s wary of “noble savage” stereotypes, she said, but when she looks around at the degradation of our planet, she can’t help but conclude that our drive to conquer and use nature is misguided at best. “There is a more sacred view of the circle of life,” she said. For all their diversity, the original nations of North America did share that essential view.

Arquette is president and CEO of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, a nonprofit agency founded in 2007 as a sort of “Native National Endowment for the Arts,” she said. Originally seeded with Ford Foundation money, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation meant to make its home in Portland, Arquette said, but somebody advised her to check out Vancouver. The Historic Reserve area was so full of relevant history that the foundation seemed a perfect fit there, she said, and set up shop on Officers Row until a combination of rising rent and organizational growth spurred it to move to a bigger, more practical space on Northeast 112th Avenue.

Native Arts and Cultures Foundation “traditional arts” fellow Israel Shotridge and one of his creations.
Native Arts and Cultures Foundation “traditional arts” fellow Israel Shotridge and one of his creations.

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation aims to take on difficult problems — environmental, economic, cultural — through great artworks created by Native Americans. Since 2010, the foundation has supported 85 artists nationwide with $1.6 million in grants. Poetry and painting, film and dance, traditional and edgily post-modern — all sorts of artworks by all sorts of American Indian, Alaskan and Hawaiian artists have been produced thanks to the support of the Vancouver-based foundation.

The foundation just announced its fellowships for 2014: a total of $220,000 for 16 artists, including Israel Shotridge, a totem pole restoration artist and Tlingit Indian based in Vashon, to Brooke Swaney, a Blackfeet/Salish filmmaker from Poison, Mont.

Perhaps because there are so few Native Americans in Clark County (less than 1 percent of the population), the foundation has found precious few local artists to support. It is an ongoing supporter of downtown Vancouver’s Ke Kukui Foundation (, which presents an annual Hawaiian Festival in Esther Short Park the third weekend of every July. It helped Ke Kukui bring an independent Hawaiian film event to the Kiggins Theatre in November. And it has sponsored summer workshops for young people.

Arquette — a native Hawaiian with degrees in both political science and theater — said she’d love to connect more with Clark County Native American artists and cultural institutions. The foundation’s fellowships aren’t for beginners, however — they’re for developed artists who have produced a “substantial body of work” and are at the top of their game, Arquette said.

Learn more about the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation at

Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email