August 19

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New Study: Art As An Economic Engine in Native Communities

Art as as economic engine in native communities

A new study, Establishing a Creative Economy: Art as an Economic Engine in Native Communities, was unveiled in Santa Fe on Friday that supports the theory that the arts can play a “key role in raising the economic standards of entire communities and serve as a monetary lever to pull people out of poverty.” The full news release from the First Peoples Fund is published below, or you can click on over and read the study for yourself. It’s available via PDF.

A references to Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Arts Incubator appears on page 26:

Incubator Clip

“Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma is a prime example of these efforts. The tribe, along with the Cherokee Nation Economic Development Trust Authority (aNative CDFI) and other partners, has seized an opportunity for growth in the tourism industry with the introduction of the Cherokee Arts Incubator. This project stimulates significant community and economic development by giving Cherokee artisans the opportunity to receive comprehensive entrepreneurial training, business development and ongoing technical assistance, and space to start businesses. Cherokee communities benefit from this partnership, since the incubator provides an outlet for artists from all areas of the tribe’s jurisdictional boundaries to sell their art. Tourists are immersed Cherokee culture and are provided a venue to purchase a piece of the heritage that is uniquely Cherokee. The arts center also provides global marketing opportunities by providing access to an e-commerce website.”

News Release: Establishing a Creative Economy: Art as an Economic Engine in Native Communities

Establishing a Creative Economy: Art as an Economic Engine in Native Communities reveals facts, insights and possibilities that have been overlooked and untapped for far too long. Based on market research conducted in Washington, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota, this report makes the case of Native arts as a strong and available economic force in Indian Country. For example:

  • Art is deeply rooted in Native communities.
    • An estimated 30 percent of all Native peoples are practicing or potential artists and most live below the poverty line.
    • 51 percent of Native households on Pine Ridge Reservation depend on home-based enterprises for cash income.
    • 79 percent of those home-based enterprises on Pine Ridge Reservation consist of some form of traditional arts.
  • Native artists learn more effectively through informal networks (peer- and family-based training) than through formal networks (institutional training). In an Arts Lab, artists can obtain access to training, mentoring, materials used in the creation of arts, and physical and electronic marketplaces.
  • Access to resources is a significant hurdle for Native artists to overcome. Given the remote and vast landscapes in which most Native artists live and work, access to supplies, capital, markets, Internet, studio space and other resources is limited to nonexistent. Support targeted at this hurdle will have an enormous positive economic impact.

This report also shows how artists–and their communities–benefit when “the right kind of support” is made available.

  • Direct support for Native artists effectively increases their economic success.
    • 61 percent of emerging artists report household incomes of less than $10,000.
    • 7.5 percent of First Peoples Fund artists report household incomes of less than $10,000.

“We, and our partners at Artspace, have seen, firsthand, the positive impact of Native arts in Indian Country,” said Lori Pourier, President of First Peoples Fund. “This report supports the argument that Native art can be used as a robust and sustainable economic driver if artists have access to culturally appropriate financial and business training and affordable capital and markets, and can become part of a professional network.”

In 2011, FPF and Artspace partnered with the Northwest Area Foundation, Colorado State University and Leveraging Investments in Creativity on the American Indian Creative Economy Market Study Project. This survey examined household economics, infrastructure needs and social networks of Native artists to help:

  • Define the role of Native artists within reservation economies.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of support programs currently available for Native artists.
  • Identify challenges faced by Native artists and opportunities to better support them.


Download the full report
To read the full report, downlad a PDF here

Learn more
To learn more and find out how you can help artist communities in rural and urban areas, download the pdf of Establishing a Creative Economy: Art as an Economic Engine in Native Communities. You can also contact FPF’s Lori Pourier for more information.