Ford Foundation Awards $145,000 to Evergreen's Longhouse Education and Cultural Center

February 27, 2004

Ford Foundation Awards $145,000 to Evergreen's Longhouse Education and Cultural Center

Funds to Support Native Arts Activities

The Ford Foundation awarded $145,000 to the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at The Evergreen State College to expand its work with Native artists. The funds will increase public understanding of Native art and culture in contemporary society, give artists opportunities to explore new media, and foster artistic and cultural exchange among tribes.

"We are appreciative of this funding that will help us build upon the successes we have achieved with Native artists in creating and sharing their work," says Tina Kuckkahn, director of the Longhouse.

One of the unique services offered through the Longhouse is its function as a nexus for artistic and cultural exchanges across tribal cultures. With more than two-dozen tribes in the state, the Longhouse offers opportunities for indigenous artists to meet on common ground to link with and learn from each other. The grant now makes it possible to access formats at Evergreen-kilns, printmaking facilities, digital photography equipment-not available in tribal communities.

The grant will help expand the artist-in-residence program, which brings established Native American artists to tribal reservation sites and to the Evergreen campus to work with local Native artists in traditional and contemporary visual and performance arts. Participants will range in age from preschooler through adult, and include Pacific Northwest tribes as well as urban Indian peoples. These residencies will give prominence to the Coast and Puget Salish art and culture, according to Kuckkahn.

In the past, the Longhouse has offered residencies in various media, including carving and weaving, that have drawn major Native artists. The grant will cover additional residencies to boost the preservation of almost-lost art forms as apprentices take the knowledge they gain from master artists back to their tribal communities. Kuckkahn says that plans are to invite noted artists clay-mask artists Lillian Pitt and Jim Jackson, printmakers Susan Point and Melanie Yazzie, digital artist Larry McNeil and storyteller Gerald "Bruce" Miller to campus to share their talents. Public presentations and exhibitions of all residences will be showcased both at the Longhouse and the Squaxin Island tribe's museum.

The grant will finance the expansion of a database that serves as a registry of Native American artists. Currently this resource connects individual artists with galleries, patrons and opportunities for personal, professional and artistic development. Improvements would make the site interactive for the artists so they would be able to communicate with each other despite geographic and distance limitations. Kuckkahn envisions artists communicating about issues of access to natural resources, intellectual property, tax workshops, and bulletins of upcoming shows. She further explains that artists would be able to download information about assembling portfolios, designing Web sites, and guidelines for joining the State Art Commission's resource bank.

"The grant opens doors of possibility that we have only dreamed of," Kuckkahn says. "In the past several years, we've been able to help artists both develop and sell their work. Now we'll help them mentor each other as they keep their tribal traditions, culture and art alive for generations to come."

Evergreen employs 28 Native American faculty and staff, about 4 percent of the total workforce. With a Native student population of 4.6 percent, the college has more than twice the ratio of Native students compared to Washington's other public four-year colleges and universities. Evergreen is identified by The Winds of Change Magazine's "Annual Guide for American Indians" as one of 200 colleges and universities in the country where Native students succeed academically and have meaningful support as college students.

Contact: Kate Lykins Brown, (360) 867-5213
Tina Kuckkahn, (360) 867-5344