Zuni Youth Enrichment Project

Funding Received: 2015
Zuni Pueblo, NM

This is one of six organizations participating in the Community Development Investments (CDI) program.  For more information about the program itself, click here.

The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) is a grassroots non-profit founded by community members committed to enhancing the health of Zuni youth. 

In 2015, our organization took a major step in its evolution when we partnered with the Zuni Tribe and ArtPlace America to integrate Zuni art and culture into the planning, design, and building phases of our new youth center and community park. 

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The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) is a grassroots non-profit founded by community members committed to enhancing the health of Zuni youth. Since its inception, ZYEP has cultivated broad community support, developing close working partnerships with the Zuni Tribe, local artists, cultural leaders, schools, health care organizations, businesses, and other collaborators to offer health and wellness programs free of charge to over 700 Zuni youth each year.

Through a culture- and evidence-based model, ZYEP has developed a series of year round programs that include summer camps, after school programs, and sport leagues that aim to enhance Zuni youths' health by giving them a deeper connection to their traditions. ZYEP has also learned that healthy youth need access to spaces that can support healthy activities. To this end, ZYEP has developed 50+ miles of walking trails, 8 traditional community gardens, and construction is underway for our state of the art youth center and park in the heart of Zuni's main village. 


ZYEP hosted a community forum to kick-off the CDI program in October 2015.  Click here to view the program from the event and you can watch the video below.



Zuni Pueblo is a remote village insulated by the desert mesas of western New Mexico and remains one of America’s most intact Native language and cultural systems. While Zuni has tremendous community and cultural strengths, it is also struggling to cope with profound changes that threaten these foundations, including the legacy of historic trauma, the loss of the Zuni River, transition from traditional forms of agriculture, aggressive introduction of alcohol, movement from Pueblo to government housing, and dramatic population growth.

In particular, Zuni youth face many challenges on their transition to adulthood, including: poverty (effects over half of Zuni children), obesity (effects over half of Zuni children and contributes to diabetes rates 3 times the national average), substance abuse (leading cause of death locally), and youth suicide (7 times the national rate). These challenges have been heightened by the stark lack of opportunities for local youth to build upon the strengths of their heritage, develop positive life-skills, and have access to safe places play, grow, and learn. 

Last Updated: January 2018

For more information on Ho'n A:wan Community Park, visit: 

ZYEP believes that cultural connection and expression are essential to community health. Over the last 10 years, we have worked with our partners to offer thousands of Zuni youth programs that emphasize the importance of Zuni language acquisition, traditional agriculture practices, Pueblo art forms, traditional songs and dances, culturally significant sites, oral storytelling, and connection to elders. These culturally enriching activities are designed to promote physical activity, improve nutrition, and provide a safe space where Zuni youth can connect to positive role models.

In our efforts to promote youth enrichment, ZYEP has identified a pressing need for community spaces that will promote a healthy lifestyle. In view of this, ZYEP has been working with local artists and key stakeholders to design a community park that reflects the identities, histories, and desires of the very community members that the park is aiming to serve. With our community partners, we envision a park that will cultivate a strong cultural connection through the visual representation of traditional art forms while offering opportunities to engage in a range of health promoting activities.

In 2015, our organization took a major step in its evolution when we partnered with the Zuni Tribe and ArtPlace America to integrate Zuni art and culture into the planning, design, and building phases of our new youth center and community park. Toward the beginning of planning Ho’n A:wan Park (Zuni translation-belonging to all of us), it became clear that there was an immeasurable opportunity to draw on the power of Zuni artists to design a space that supported a broader set of psychological and social needs beyond physical activity. Since 2015, ZYEP has sponsored over 30 community planning meetings with more than 7 stakeholder groups including parents, elders, park neighbors, artists, cultural leaders, Tribal Council, and program administrators, to plan Ho’n A:wan Park.

Key to our community outreach efforts has been the organization of a 6-member advisory committee made up of prominent Zuni artists representing a range of traditional art forms. The artist committee has been at the forefront listening the community’s desires for a park that imparts lessons to Zuni youth about who they are and where they come from and translating this input into an innovative park design that accentuates Zuni’s rich cultural heritage through the ingenuity of Zuni art forms. Notably, 80% of the adult Zuni population identify as artists, and the artist committee has taken the lead in galvanizing interest amongst this group to contribute art that communicates important stories like Zuni’s migration from the Grand Canyon to Dowa Yalanne Mountain (Zuni Pueblo’s current location).

Our planning process has led to a park design that will feature a range of opportunities that have never been available in Zuni before including areas for public art, indoor/outdoor performance spaces, multipurpose turf field, large community garden, and a youth center with a large conference room and fully equipped two classrooms. By intentionally leveraging the role of artist, and the power of their art in the development of Ho’n A:wan Park, ZYEP has gained an important community partner and is positioned to offer innovative programs and spaces that advance the health of Zuni youth and their families in culturally affirming ways. 


See below for recent updates, press, and events from this project

Jun 11, 2020
Beside the dried-up bed of the Zuni River, a bright green athletic field surrounded by spiky coyote fencing stands out among the white and red... Read More
Jun 5, 2020
For over 30 years, Marvin and Frances Martinez have risen with the sun to drive from their home at the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New... Read More
Dec 7, 2018
In 2015, local groups in two starkly different settings were given financial and technical support to work with artists to change their approach to building... Read More
Feb 9, 2018
First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has just published a new report on Native food sovereignty assessment efforts, as well as four new videos dealing... Read More
Apr 21, 2017
A local architect, female business owner and descendent of the Cochiti Pueblo, is bringing her unique perspective to The University of New Mexico by co-hosting... Read More
ArtPlace America’s Community Development Investments (CDI) program provides funding and technical assistance to community development organizations who haven’t previously had a significant history of working... Read More
Announcement & Community Forums: The most important memories from the period after we were announced as a CDI grantee are ones of newly inspired optimism... Read More
Everyone can picture how a bright mural or whimsical statue can elevate our enjoyment of a public park. But artists can figure in to the...Read more
Our attendees at this year’s ArtPlace Summit in Phoenix, AZ dug into the question, “How will the arts help achieve community change?” Attendees in the...Read more
We are now almost six months into the Community Development Investments program and our six community planning and development organizations have been hard at work...Read more
It’s not often that you get to spend a month on the road with your coworkers! During October, Jamie B, Prentice, and I shared many...Read more
Over the first three weeks of October, the participating organizations of the Community Development Investments will hold community forums to introduce this program to local...Read more
Today we announced an $18 million investment in six place-based organizations around the country to incorporate arts & culture into their community development work. In...Read more
ArtPlace is pleased to announce the 21 finalist organizations for the new Community Development Investments (CDI) program! In August of 2015 we will fund one...Read more