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Arts & Life

Native American artist distributes free art supply boxes to children on Pine Ridge Reservation

Charlie Nicole Cuny loves art, and when the pandemic hit she turned to it even more.

"I used art as an outlet to keep me from going insane. Not only do I find art fun, but it is healing as well," she said.

It gave Cuny an idea. She created Lakota Art Boxes, a free box full of art supplies that she mails or personally delivers to families on the Pine Ridge Reservation where she lives. She pays for everything out of her own pocket and does it after her full-time job, while fighting the effects of inflation.

"Given the situation we're in now, everything is just so so expensive, extremely expensive," Cuny said. "But I prioritize it into my everyday life."

Despite the expense, she wants to continue. She knows a lot of families don't have easy access to art supplies.

"The nearest craft store can be found over an hour away, give or take where you live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation," she said.

The boxes have been a big hit. Cuny said she has distributed almost 400 since she started in November 2021. She wants to expand and eventually turn this into her full-time job.

Cuny believes in the healing power of art and also wants the boxes to help children and families connect to their heritage.

"By incorporating Lakota teachings into each project, we are revitalizing our Lakota culture and our traditional knowledge," she said.

Cuny said anyone can reach out to her on Facebook to request a box. It just may take a while to get it.

"I never tell anybody no," Cuny said. "Even if I can't get everyone the supplies I want to give out, I give somebody something, so pencils, paper, crayons, markers."

Donations and requests can be made here.