As a cultural asset for Native communities, art has been an integral part of sustaining Native nations, their cultures, their languages and their traditional beliefs, thereby shaping community and family ties and cultural pride. First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) believes the continuing development of Native American art is an indispensable component of Native community economic development and the retention of Native cultures.
In 2014, First Nations launched the Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative (NACBI) to significantly increase the organizational, managerial and programmatic capacity of Native organizations and tribal government art programs. NACBI provides direct grants, technical assistance and training to Native organizations and tribal government art programs so they can continue to carry out essential work for Native American arts and artists.
NACBI is supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation along with contributions from tribal, corporate and individual supporters. In October 2014, First Nations awarded six $30,000 grants to Native art capacity programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Woodland Indian Art, Inc. (WIA), a community organization located on the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin’s reservation, is one of six inaugural grantees. WIA promotes and educates the public about the unique artistic styles of Native Americans in the upper midwest and northeastern regions of the United States.
For eight years, WIA has existed as a volunteer-driven organization, with no full-time employees on its staff. Since there was no full-time management staff, it was often difficult to coordinate activities of volunteers and obtain much-needed funds for volunteer activities. Even so, WIA volunteers continued to grow the organization and move forward.
NACBI has enabled WIA to formalize its organization, achieve 501(c)(3) status and launch new marketing and fundraising campaigns to increase revenue to support and expand WIA’s activities. “We know that a diversity of funding is the key to becoming a sustainable organization,” said WIA Board President Rae Skenadore.
Achieving 501(c)(3) status has enabled WIA to diversify and expand its funding base. For example, the new status has enabled it to request funding from the Oneida Community Fund. WIA has leveraged those funds by submitting a proposal that doubled Oneida’s donation with matching funds from Wisconsin Public Radio.
These funds allowed WIA to reach its target market and increase awareness of its upcoming event: The 2015 Woodland Indian Art Show & Market. WIA secured more than $10,000 in promotion and marketing services to help increase awareness of the event.
During the past six months, WIA has also developed a new fundraising campaign to increase its presence through mailings, social media and email marketing. New board members and interns from the College of Menominee Nation led the campaign. “By participating in this campaign, a whole new generation is learning how to participate in and be successful in the Native nonprofit sector,” noted Skenadore.
The success of this campaign has allowed WIA to expand the Woodland Indian Art Show & Market from a small event to a large-scale festival that includes an art competition with performing artists, classes and demonstrations. The newly expanded festival will be held June 12-14 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
As an organization that is approaching its ninth annual event, WIA’s current success reiterates the importance of consistent funding and institutional support for Native American arts and artists. “NACBI has allowed us to move one more step forward in achieving our vision of becoming a trusted, internationally-recognized organization,” said WIA Board Treasurer Loretta Webster. “It has helped jolt us to the next level.”
By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator