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IllumiNative Launches Rapid Response Art Fund to Support Native Artists as a Vehicle to Call for the End of Systemic Racism

Tulsa, OK. June 16, 2020 – Today, Native-led nonprofit organization IllumiNative announced the launch of a Rapid Response Art Fund to support Native artists’ creation of work that calls for racial justice. In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others that have sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism across the United States. The new fund will provide immediate funding and resources to support Native artists to participate in national discussions related to racial equity and justice.

IllumiNative’s first award from the Rapid Response Art Fund will support a partnership with the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) to fund Native artists in Minneapolis. The funds will be used to create art that showcases that Native peoples stand shoulder to shoulder with the Black community in the joint fight against police brutality and systemic racism. 

To kick off this initiative, IllumiNative and NACDI have partnered with local Minnesota artists Jonathan Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe) and Marlana Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscokee Creek) to create digital pieces. It will also support a collaboration between Rory Erler Wakemp (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe), Natchez Beaullieu (White Earth Nation), and Courtney Cochran (Bois Forte, Red Lake) to create a twenty-one-panel public mural at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. The mural will include themes of Indigenous solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, police brutality within the Minneapolis Native community, and community resilience. 

Of the partnership, Crystal Echo Hawk Executive Director of IllumiNative said:

Artists have always been on the frontlines of social change. Through their work, they call out and shine a light on injustices within our society. They invite and guide us in imagining a world beyond the boundaries of our current systems. The ability of artists to illustrate our pain, hopes and ideas for pathways forward is critical. We are proud to support Native artists as they work to show our strength, solidarity, resilience and collective fight for justice. The time has come for a reckoning in this country that is built upon stolen lands of Native Americans and the stolen bodies and labor of African Americans. We need to both reimagine and build a new way forward to end the systemic racism that has been a driving force in this country for hundreds of years. We believe Native artists can play an important role in helping to advance that dialogue nationally and within their respective communities.”

Of the partnership, Robert Lilligren, NACDI President and Executive Director said:

“NACDI and All My Relations Arts are honored and humbled that IllumiNative would partner with us in supporting First Nations Artists to share our solidarity with Black and Indigenous people experiencing police brutality while recognizing the American Indian Movement Patrol in their work protecting the American Indian Cultural Corridor for decades. It is our mission to support artists who are the leaders of social change movements.”

Of the partnership, Angela Two Stars, All My Relations Art Director said:

“Through visual expression, artists are able to convey the depth of emotions that the public cannot put into words. They paint the future that doesn’t yet exist. These works become a visual reminder of what happened and promote unity and healing.”

To support this fund, please visit: https://secure.donationpay.org/illuminative/


About IllumiNative

IllumiNative is a Native-led nonprofit, launched to increase the visibility of Native peoples in American society by changing the national narrative. IllumiNative challenges negative narratives, stories, and stereotypes about Native peoples. We provide tools for Native advocates and allies including youth, community and tribal leaders, activists, and professionals across critical sectors — to develop and advocate for accurate and contemporary representations and voices of Native peoples.

Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) 

NACDI was founded in 2007 to address the growing challenges and opportunities facing the urban Indigenous community. NACDI is committed to transforming the American Indian community to effectively respond to 21st-century opportunities. NACDI works to promote innovative community development strategies that strengthen the overall sustainability and well-being of American Indian people and communities. 

All My Relations Arts (AMRA) 

AMRA operates the All My Relations Arts Gallery, Minnesota’s premier American Indian owned and operated contemporary fine arts gallery. Located on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, the gallery resides within the heart of the American Indian Cultural Corridor. The focus of AMRA is to provide the people of the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, and beyond consistently high-quality exposure to Native American fine arts. As an initiative of NACDI, All My Relations Arts serves a very distinct role in NACDI’s community development work, providing the public with education about American Indian history, culture, and contemporary experiences through the arts

About the Artists

Jonathan Thunder:
Jonathan Thunder, Manidoo Gwiiwizens, is a member of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation. He practices as a multi-disciplinary artist who works in animated films, painting and illustration. Visit Thunderfineart.com to learn more.

Marlena Myles:
Marlena​ Myles is a self-taught Native American (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee) artist located in St Paul, Minnesota. She has gained recognition with her fabric patterns, animations and illustrations which bring modernity to indigenous history, languages and oral traditions. Growing up on her traditional Dakota homelands here in the Twin Cities, she enjoys using her artwork to teach Minnesotans of all backgrounds the indigenous history of this place we call home.

Rory Wakemup:
Rory Wakemup is a Master of Fine Arts graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015. He received his Master of Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts Santa Fe New Mexico in 2010.

Wakemup is a multidisciplinary artist whose work turns the script of cultural appropriation on its head. He has morphed his experience in Indian ceremonies with his studio art practice and has become a conduit between conceptual ideas and the materials at hand. Wakemup enjoys playing with the grey areas of what is appropriate in today’s society. He was a co-founder of the Humble Experiment, Independent Student Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was on a panel for Native Underground, sponsored by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Wakemup was awarded the “Chazen Museum Prize” over 80 other applicants in the UW Madison MFA program for his MFA show “Kill the Idiot Save the Fan” and was featured on Wisconsin Public Televisions “Wisconsin Life” and a front page Article on the “Sundays Best” section of  the Wisconsin State Journal. 

Since Rory Wakemup has finished school in 2015 he has dedicated his art practice to community engagement for social justice. Accolades in 2016 include a full page spread in the Minneapolis newspaper Star Tribune for his “Smart Wars” performance at the Minneapolis American Indian Center on Indigenous People Day, and his a collaboration with Cannupa Hanska Luger was awarded the years best art event of 2016 by First American Art Magazine.

Natchez Beaulieu:
Muralist/Public Artist.

I am an Anishinaabe woman born and raised in south Minneapolis and an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation. As a youth I was involved in mural making through the mural mentorship program Neighborhood Safe Art led by artist Marilyn Lindstrom. In my most recent work I have been exploring the translation of traditional Ojibwe floral design into mosaic. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with various artists in the Twin Cities including Gustavo Lira on the exterior mural at the Seward Friendship store in Bryant neighborhood in 2016. In 2017, in collaboration with GoodSpace Murals, I designed The Zoongidewin mural in the Little Earth Community. This project continued over two summers directly engaging with the youth of Little Earth, Phillips and surrounding indigenous communities. Since that time I have worked with teachers in both Osseo and Minneapolis Public Schools Indian Education program, where I worked directly with students of all ages in creating meaningful and cultural identifying art. In summer of 2019 I was hired by Minneapolis Institute of Arts to create a mural with 10 young women for The Hearts Of Our People exhibition. The young women designed and created a mural that spoke to the themes of the exhibit. This was a powerful project and brought me another step closer in my vision of creating a youth mentorship art program for my community. Currently, I am a teaching artist who works full time on commissioned public art projects in my community.

Courtney Cochran:

Courtney Cochran is an Anishinaabe (Bois Forte, Red Lake) artist, filmmaker and community organizer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As an artist she derives her inspiration from her Ojibwe heritage, contemporary Native American experience, healing and social justice causes.

Courtney’s approach to documentary filmmaking comes from a decolonized lens where she abandons individualized directorial power and the camera as an authoring mechanism. She is passionate about collective power and knowledge and making this medium accessible, especially for the future storytellers.

Outside of her film practice, she incorporates multimedia elements in her work such as beadwork, sweetgrass, porcupine quills, paint, textiles, analog film, and photographs.

Courtney has taught Native American beading, intro to filmmaking, and screen printing workshops at community events and organizations within the twin cities. She has also led workshops at the Minneapolis Museum of American Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her work has been featured on MN Original, ​Powwows.com​, Restoring the Circle Magazine, and Talktainment Radio. 

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