Native Arts Initiative (NAI)

Native Arts Initiative (NAI)

About the Native Arts Initiative

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) works to build healthy economies in Indian Country based on strategies that emphasize Native communities controlling their assets, including cultural assets, institutional assets, natural resource assets and political assets among others. As a cultural asset for Native communities, art has been an integral part of sustaining Native nations, culture, language and traditional beliefs, shaping community and family ties and cultural pride. Yet, the process of colonization has stripped many Native communities of artistic forms and individuals with the capacity to carry on traditional art forms that are integral to their cultures. Factors such as western and religious education systems as well as urbanization and incorporation into the modern economy, among others, have all directly impacted Native American artists and the field of Native American arts, placing continued pathways of cultural traditions in jeopardy.
To this end, First Nations established the Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative (NACBI) in 2014 – changing its name to the Native Arts Initiative (NAI) in 2016 – with the goal of stimulating long-term perpetuation, proliferation and revitalization of traditional artistic and cultural assets in Native communities. The NAI is working to achieve this by creating and strengthening the enabling environments in which Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs are operating to support emerging and established Native artists and sustain traditional Native arts. Under the NAI, these entities receive organizational and programmatic resources, including direct grants and technical assistance and training, to support their efforts to increase control of assets across five asset groups – institutional assets, arts and cultural assets, human capital, social assets and economic assets – ultimately facilitating the steady intergenerational transference of traditional artistic knowledge in their communities. 


      NAI News and Grantee Stories      

Lakota Artists Boost Economy, Community & Cultural Traditions on Pine Ridge 

Titwáatit Gallery Boosting Colville Native Artists

Social Value, Greater Healing: Art for the Upper Sioux

Sacred Pipe Artists Unite to Connect, Empower & Return Value to Art

Art for Culture & Economy: Tananáwit at Warm Springs

Passing Down Art and History at the Tulalip Tribes

Tiny Beads, Lifetime Lessons on Bois Forte Heritage Museum in Tower, Minnesota

Grants Help Keep Traditional Native Arts & Cultures Alive

Native Arts Project Explores Traditional Pueblo Connections

'Power of We' Part 2: Passion Resonates at Conference

AICHO Opening New "Indigenous First" Gift Shop in Duluth, Minnesota

First Nations Will Expand Its Native Arts Initiative in 2017

American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth, Minnesota

Thunder Valley Community Development Corp. in Porcupine, South Dakota

Gizhiigin Art Place in Mahnomen, Minnesota


NAI Funding Opportunities

From 2014 through early 2018, First Nations awarded 51 Supporting Native Arts grants totaling more than $1.4 million and ranging from $15,000 to $32,000 each to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal government programs serving Native American artists in three regions – the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota), the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California), and the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington). Currently, the geographic restrictions on NAI funding opportunities stem from our donors’ allowable service areas.
NAI Supporting Native Arts grantees utilize their grant funds to strengthen both organizational and programmatic capacity including, for example, supporting Master-Apprentice Artist instruction, development of Native artists’ business skills, providing arts workshops and classes led by master artists, and convening local artists to inform policy work and arts curriculum creation, among others. 

First Nations has also awarded more than 40 professional development mini-grants and travel stipends totaling more than $140,000 to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in the NAI service area from 2014 through mid-2018. Grant recipients have utilized the mini-grants to attend conferences and trainings focused on a wide variety of professional development topics including strategic planning, fundraising, museum best practices, curating and archiving, digital marketing, financial management, board governance and financial oversight among others.

NAI Grantee Training and Technical Assistance Opportunities

Besides direct project funding, First Nations provides NAI grantees with one-on-one technical assistance based on their needs identified in First Nations’ Capacity Survey Tool. Typically this technical assistance is delivered via in-person trainings conducted by First Nations and its partners.

December 2017 NAI Supporting Native Arts Grantees



April 2017 NAI Supporting Native Arts Grantees

December 2017 NAI Professional Development Grantees

April 2017 NAI Professional Development Grantees