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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 director for the Red Cloud Indian School, brings us an update in the project:

There is no other place like The Heritage Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Because of this the Center, located on the campus of Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, has become a model and source of inspiration for many of the Lakota people—and visitors from all across the globe—who wish to honor and celebrate the Lakota culture, Native art, and this historic collection.

One of the earliest cultural centers and museums located on an Indian reservation in the United States, The Heritage Center represents the rich and storied heritage of North America’s Native community, and the skill and creativity that remain mainstays of the local Lakota and other Native American cultures. They staff take special pride in their work to strengthen cultural pride and celebrate, as well as preserve, the local Lakota culture and artistic tradition.

One often hears the term “food deserts” bandied about nowadays, referring to areas in which healthy, affordable food is difficult or impossible to come by without significant travel. Many rural and inner city areas across the country fall into this category, including the majority of Indian reservations. Pine Ridge, in addition to being a food desert, could also be termed an “artistic space desert”.

This is not to say that the reservation is devoid of art or artistic creativity. On the contrary, Pine Ridge contains a tremendous amount of individuals whose livelihoods or hobbies entail creating pieces of art. What is lacking on the reservation is any significant infrastructure devoted to art creation and art commerce. The Heritage Center is the one notable exception.

The staff of The Heritage Center have worked for decades to make the Center a place where art is valued and celebrated. It is a venue where, upon entering, one is surrounded by and immersed in a myriad of fine art created by Native artists from around the country. In this way, it is quite unlike any other place on the Connecticut-sized reservation.
The Heritage Center hopes that its work of creating a space devoted entirely to the celebration of art will inspire other such efforts in other parts of the reservation. Also, by supporting local artists and providing a place for them to both showcase and retail their creations, it makes art a more sustainable and lucrative alternative for local people who are often long on talent, but lacking in means to get their work to a broader market.

Artistic placemaking on the reservation needed to start at square one, with the creation of a venue devoted to art in the first place. The Heritage Center did just that in its formative years. In the future, The Center hopes to continue its mission of enriching Pine Ridge through art, and maintaining and expanding the spaces for that enrichment to take place.

Peter Hill
Communications Director
Red Cloud Indian School

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