Since 2015, the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) has offered young people in and around Eagle Butte, South Dakota a tremendous opportunity to hone their creative skills, learn about their cultural heritage, gain self-confidence, and work with accomplished artists from near and far. This opportunity is the RedCan Invitational Graffiti Jam—the first and so far only event of its kind in Indian Country. RedCan recently celebrated its fifth vibrant year.
“RedCan is a different approach to youth programming, for sure,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “But at CRYP, we’re innovative, we’re creative, we’re risk-takers. That’s how RedCan was born: out of our determination to offer new opportunities for our young people that would strengthen their connection to their culture, encourage them to express themselves and share their stories, and allow them to learn from accomplished visual and performance artists from across the country. In year five, we got to see our full-on dream realized.”
Just before this year’s RedCan, held June 19 to 22, CRYP was honored by Americans for the Arts for producing this “outstanding public arts project.”
The public is invited to attend RedCan, which takes place in CRYP’s Art Park and at large-scale mural sites across Eagle Butte. Visitors are also invited to take a self-directed mural tour around the town. The organization’s main office in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center provides free information.
“Being able to paint and express yourself is something important for your mental health, your physical health—to stay healthy,” said Tusweca Taoniye Mendoza, age 13, a Lakota artist from Rapid City who participated in this year’s event.
RedCan frames graffiti as an art form, and connects the street art world with the Indigenous world. When young Lakota artists collaborate with renowned street artists from across the country, they infuse graffiti with their own culture, identities, and stories, providing meaningful, lasting inspiration to both participants and viewers.
“[RedCan] gives them a voice,” said Focus, a Hunkpapa Lakota artist and event participant. “I just think it helps them to feel encouraged, to feel acknowledged, to feel accepted in their own land.”
According to Dwayno Insano, an Onk Akimal O’odham artist who also participated, “Art is power, an expression. It gives the silent a voice. It kind of takes your place back… Call that land your own again.”
Julie Garreau spoke succinctly about her goals for the youth of the Eagle Butte community: “I want safe spaces for kids. I want them to learn, and imagine what they want to be—and then become it.”
- Read more on ArtPlace about the many programs and initiatives CRYP offers on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation
- View a beautiful slideshow by an ArtPlace “roving reporter” of activities at CRYP in 2017
- Learn about some of the internships and other opportunities CRYP offers young people in and around Eagle Butte