The Cheyenne River Youth Project has announced the creation of a Lakota youth art institute on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. TYe goal is to open students’ minds to greater opportunities in art while embracing the Lakota cultural view of art as a part of their everyday lifestyle.
The Waniyetu Wowapi – or “Winter Count” - Lakota Art Institute is a natural evolution of the Cheyenne River Youth Project's existing arts programming. That includes an Art Park that anyone can use to explore their creativity in graffiti. It also encompasses the Red Can graffiti jam art competition and an extensive teen art internship program.
As it grows the Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Art Institute will incorporate fine art, graffiti, street art and traditional Lakota arts. The long-term vision includes music and movement, commercial arts, full internships and a peer-mentor program.
Julie Garreau is executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project.
“One of the things that we’ve done throughout our history at Cheyenne River Youth Project is we’ve offered…arts and crafts.” explains Garreau. “Afterschool activities. We’ve done things…you know…kind of sort of keeping the kids engaged. But I think with the Art Institute what we’re looking to do is offer them much more sophisticated and a broad variety of mediums.”
Because art is considered therapeutic, says Garreau, the first goal is to get kids to create through art. The Art Institute will take that mindset one step further.
“We can start to help kids imagine like ‘I could have a career in art. I could be an art teacher. I could go to school to be an artist. I could make a living from art,” Garreau observes. “I think we’re trying to just open their minds.”
At the same Garreau plans to offer instruction in traditional activities related to Lakota art…such as quill work and buffalo hide tanning.
From having Native American artists as guest instructors…to exploring art therapy as a healing tool…to understanding the vital role art plays in the Lakota culture on a daily basis Garreau can one day see the Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Art Institute as a Northern Plains answer to the Institute of American Indian Arts.