When the front door opens, a chime rings and each visitor is greeted with the sound of Northern Plains drumming and the smell of freshly-burned sage. At first glance, a visitor might notice the intricate beadwork on a belt in the front room, or be drawn to a hand-woven basket perfectly poised on a stand in the foyer.
The Northwest Native Development Fund (NNDF) has meticulously created a pure Plateau Native American art experience through the development of the Titwáatit Native Art Gallery in Grand Coulee Dam, Washington. The fund worked closely with local artists to display their art in a way to attract the visitor and highlight the beauty of each piece.
As a recipient of a Native Arts Initiative grant from First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), NNDF was able to establish this permanent space, the Titwáatit Native Art Gallery, for artists to train, facilitate workshops, and sell their art near the Colville Indian Reservation. NNDF chose this location to reach Native artists and community members on the reservation, as well as the non-Native consumers passing through to view the historical Grand Coulee Dam.
“Currently, on the Colville Reservation, there is a need for easier access to traditional Native artwork. By opening the Native artist studio near the Colville Reservation, NNDF will provide a more professional platform for artists to showcase their work and community members to engage with the artists,” said Ted Piccolo, Executive Director of NNDF. “In an ever-inflating economy, we hope to help our Native artists prosper financially, allowing them to continue chasing their passions, while providing traditional Native artwork to our communities.”
The idea of the gallery was created through discussions around the success of NNDF’s Annual Plains Native Art Show. The show’s curators recognized the need to showcase the local artists and talent on a regular basis. NNDF staff worked diligently to raise the funding to support the development and management of a Plateau Native art gallery and studio for the summer of 2018. In addition to raising funding for the new Titwáatit Native Art Gallery, NNDF understood the need to simultaneously showcase the artists while generating the tools and support for the artists to build their individual businesses. To accomplish this, 10 Native artists are participating in NNDF’s intensive Native Artists Business and Entrepreneurial Training throughout 2018 to strengthen their business practices.
To date, Titwáatit has sold several local artist pieces. Because this art gallery is supported through grant funding, all proceeds go directly to the artists. NNDF also saw much success at the Annual Plateau Native Art Show on August 25, 2018. In spite of the heavy smoke conditions from the West Coast fires, NNDF saw incredible turnout, hosting 12 local artists and over 60 attendees. The art show produced 12 juried exhibitions, contributing four prizes to participating artists.
“With our programmatic effort and partnership with First Nations Development Institute, we hope to create a more sustainable and prosperous environment for our Native arts community,” noted Piccolo. “Creating access to the community is imperative in this endeavor, and NNDF hopes to bridge that gap in our community.”
By Stephanie Cote, First Nations Program Coordinator