Red Cloud Indian SchoolPine Ridge, SD
The Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School received a first round grant from ArtPlace to increase economic development, tourism and self-sufficiency among the Lakota People and other Native Americans by capitalizing on the distinctiveness of their artwork.
Peter Hill, communications coordinator for Red Cloud Indian School, brings us an update in the project:
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is often described in depressing terms: desolate, hopeless, poverty-stricken, destitute. The words “vibrant” and “hopeful” are not generally the first to come to mind.
And yet, one would never describe The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School using terms of barrenness or impoverishment. It is, in every respect, a vital, thriving, and welcoming institution.
The trope of the “starving artist” is a common cliché in modern culture, but here in Pine Ridge, many artists spend their time just barely getting by. Selling a drawing or piece of Lakota craftwork to a family of tourists, often for far less than it could be worth, may be their only way of getting food on the table. During the off-season, customers are even harder to come by.
The Heritage Center (www.redcloudschool.org/museum) critically serves as one of the few important sources of economic growth for residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Center’s gift shop sells artwork by more than 250 active Lakota artisans annually through a retail store in the Heritage Center and an online store.
Each year, The Heritage Center Gift Shop purchases and resells (with a very small markup to cover operating costs) over $100,000 worth of locally made Lakota tribal arts and fine arts, both contemporary and traditional. The shop’s handmade Lakota items are highly sough after, and oftentimes demand exceeds supply.
In this way, The Heritage Center makes a much-needed full-time contribution to the economy of the Pine Ridge Reservation. By being able to sell their artwork through an established institution, whose customers are willing to pay a fair price for quality work, The Heritage Center helps ensure that more local artists will be able to keep food on the table year-round.