Fostering artists through fellowships

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Strengthening the business skills of artists while ensuring that art, culture and ancestral knowledge are passed from one generation to the next are some of the goals of First Peoples Fund. These objectives are being met every year through their fellowship programs. According to Amber Hoy, the Program Manager of Fellowships at First Peoples Fund,

“The fellowship programs can give artists the confidence to pursue larger markets and provide artists with personal and professional opportunities.”

Twenty to twenty-five artists are chosen annually to participate in the fellowships and awarded $5,000 to $10,000, technical support, and professional training to support their projects. In recent years, the fellowship has expanded to now include hip-hop and spoken word artists, as well as theater artists and traditional dancers. The fellowships begin in January and end in December, and kick off with the fellowship awardees meeting in-person.

Hoy states,

“We change the location each year and reach out to our partners in the area to put together programming that includes professional development training, viewing work at local museums and markets, and possibly tasting Indigenous foods from that area.”

During this time, artists often decide to collaborate on a project. This year, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, meetings were moved to online sessions so that everyone could participate in a safe and healthy way.

First Peoples Fund offers two different fellowships. The Artist in Business Leadership fellowship helps artists grow their businesses.

According to Hoy,

“This might mean developing a website for online sales or learning other kinds of business or artistic skills.”

The funds provided during this fellowship can be used to purchase materials to increase inventory or hire consultants to help advance their business. The Cultural Capital fellowship is all about passing on ancestral knowledge. These fellowship awardees often use their funds to support projects such as mentorships or community workshops.

“For culture bearers that become Cultural Capital fellows, this is likely work they have been doing for years and we have the honor to support their practice,” says Hoy.

One artist who took part in the Cultural Capital Fellowship in 2019 is Talon Bazille Ducheneaux – ShootsTheEnemy. Ducheneaux’s project for the fellowship was a combination of music and storytelling, created and recorded for and by community members of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. The recordings took place in a free community studio called Wonahun Was’ste’ Studios/Records.

“Through the fellowship, I was able to maintain a full year of free recording, mixing, mastering, and distributing services to members of the Crow Creek community, and even some outside of it,” says Ducheneaux. “This included Hip Hop, Rap, Classic Rock, Dakota/Lakota singing, Pow Wow, R&B, Lakota Pop, and even stories of Iktomi.”

He believes the fellowship has helped him grow into desiring more selflessness in his musical work,

“The Fellowship helped me learn how to lead responsibly, listen carefully, facilitate an open and safe space to create, and care immensely for other peoples’ artistry with whatever I had in my toolbox,” says Ducheneaux.

To be eligible for the fellowships, applicants must provide proof of lineal descendancy of a U.S. federally recognized tribe, a state-recognized tribe, or be an Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian. The fellowships receive around 100 applications a year for the programs. .

“I would recommend artists that are wanting to apply for the 2021 fellowships to consider what their business and their community needs are right now during these changing times,” says Hoy.

According to Ducheneaux,

“Stay diligent and continue to apply! It is very easy to get discouraged in this world but keep trusting your art and good things will come.”

Applications for the fellowship programs can be found on the First People’s Fund website. The deadline to apply is August 31, 2020.

If you have questions about the fellowships or application process contact Amber Hoy at (605) 348-0324 or email at

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Categories: ConnectCenter1-Business, ConnectCenter1-Culture and Art, Local News