Photo Credit: The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School

Photo Credit: The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School

The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School brings Lakota art to the world.

That’s not too big of a dream, is it? We don’t think so.

The gift shop at The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School has been providing a place for Lakota traditional arts to be sold to visitors to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for more than 30 years. Not only is this a “one stop shopping” experience for our visitors to purchase authentic porcupine quillwork, beadwork, star quilts, and other art by Lakota artists, it is also an economic stimulator in one of the poorest counties in the United States.

Over the years, the gift shop has purchased up to $100,000 of Lakota-made artwork outright each year, providing immediate cash that local artists need to feed their families and keep their lives afloat. At the same time, it contributes to the continuity of age-old techniques and aesthetics; we have several instances of multi-generational artists who sell their work to our gift shop. The quality and uniqueness of the one-of-a-kind artwork that passes through our store are things that can only be experienced by seeing the work.

One challenge we face has always been to bridge the gap between our remote physical location in the southwest corner of South Dakota and the large number of people around the world who are engaged with Lakota culture and art in one way or another. In the past we relied upon people traveling great distances to reach our little corner of the world and purchasing a piece from our inventory to serve as a physical reminder of their trip.

In today’s world, we are trying to find our way through the opportunities that are out there, and this year we will be working on a couple different projects with the hope of expanding the market for Lakota art and increasing our ability to better serve that market.

We are going to upgrade the technology behind our relatively new (almost two years old) online store (shop.redcloudschool.org) and execute a marketing push to drive traffic to that site. We will also be redesigning our web site (www.redcloudschool.org) and including dynamic content within The Heritage Center’s section – specifically artist profiles and informational material about the art forms we feature and their history and connection to today’s Lakota culture.

Also we will be developing our basic and young Lakota Art Market into a more robust Arts Festival in 2012 with local partners and fully developed marketing plan.

We’ll have starts and stops along the way, but by the end of the year we hope to have opened the eyes of many more people around the world to Lakota traditional arts.

Photo Credit: The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School

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