RedCan Graffiti Jam inspires youth despite pandemic

Redcan 2020

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. — For six years the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte has organized the RedCan Graffiti Jam to both raise the awareness of the graffiti art movement and allow young artists to explore their own identities and artistic talents. Artists from around the world gather to take part and express Indigenous culture through different art forms.

Though this year’s Jam had to be delayed due to COVID-19, the event was completely revamped to be safe enough for both students and instructors. The four-day event included multiple workshops that were broadcast online from locations all across the country. Of the many discussions, three workshops were held by artists connected to First Peoples Fund (FPF) and its Rolling Rez Arts program.

For Michael Two Bulls (2020 FPF Cultural Capital Fellow), virtual sessions have become the new normal. “I’ve actually done a lot of workshops from Zoom because of COVID,” Two Bulls said. “It’s just changed everything, especially in the arts. I have had to cancel a lot of my workshops and talking engagements. Still, I embraced the change.”

Since his session was being done online, Two Bulls wanted to lead a workshop that would produce fantastic results with just a few techniques. As a printmaker, Two Bulls thought that paper lithography would be a unique way for students to create art easily. “It was tough because I couldn’t see the students or interact with them, so I was shooting in the dark, but it turned out really well,” Two Bulls said. “They sent me pictures of their finished projects, and they were beautiful. There was a little bit of a learning curve, but for the most part it’s straightforward, easy and accessible.”

Wade Patton (2017 Artist in Business Leadership Fellow), an Oglala Lakota artist, was one of the first instructors for this year’s event. Patton also taught his oil pastel session virtually from the Rolling Rez Arts bus. This was the third year Patton took part in the RedCan Jam and he believes that the event was particularly important for his students this year.

“With everything that’s going on we have to do some of the things that keep the community thriving and strong,” Patton said. “To have that consistency to follow through with something, to let our youth know that as a community we have to stay together to keep going forward.”

In his years working with the RedCan Jam, Patton has enjoyed meeting the youth with the Cheyenne River Youth Project and looks forward to seeing how they mature through the years. “To see them grow from the years I’ve been there, you see their progress and see them take an interest and see how they’ve learned and grown into young adults. Some of them moved on and registered for college and are now taking art classes, and it will be interesting to follow their path and see what they do.”

The RedCan Jam may have operated differently this year because of COVID-19, but both Two Bulls and Patton know how important it was for the youth. For Two Bulls, the event serves to nurture the creative spirit and pass on the support he was given. “I’ve done so many workshops through the years and will continue to do them,” he said. “I try to be more conscious about teaching young Indigenous youth and aspiring artists, because I feel that young Indigenous voices should be heard and supported, like I was supported when I was young. I try to encourage and offer what I know about art techniques as much as I can. My hope is that I see them again down the road making art.”

Participating in the RedCan Jam for three years has inspired Patton. “For me as a Native person, it was cool to see all these Native organizations coming together and creating a positive for our youth, creating a positive for the community.”

By working with the Cheyenne River Youth Project, the First Peoples Fund and Rolling Rez Arts were able to contribute to a wildly successful RedCan Jam. To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its RedCan Jam, click HERE.

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