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Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli, a traditional Mexica-Nahua (Aztec) cultural group. Photo credit: Kimani Beard
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McKnight Celebrates Culture Bearers in Third-Quarter Grantmaking

Partnership with Indigenous Roots Expands Foundation’s Artist Fellowships Program

The McKnight Foundation and the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center of St. Paul will begin taking submissions for the three new $25,000 Fellowships for Culture Bearers as part of the McKnight Artist Fellowships program.

These annual fellowships are part of McKnight’s third-quarter 2021 grantmaking, in which the board awarded 131 grants totaling $24.1 million. Of that sum, $6.3 million went to support grantees in the Arts & Culture program, such as Indigenous Roots, with a focus on catalyzing the creativity, power, and leadership of artists and culture bearers. The full list of approved grants is available in our grants database.

“Indigenous Roots brings deep connections with diverse communities, ancestral practices, and cultural arts. This new collaboration and the launch of the Fellowships for Culture Bearers will celebrate and elevate the vital work that culture bearers do for people and planet.”

The new fellowships will support three culture bearers who practice sacred and healing lifeways and share cultural art practices across generations. Fellows will participate in a cohort and community circle that will allow them to deepen their learning with mentors and share their work more broadly. Indigenous Roots anticipates announcing the first three honored recipients in March 2022.

“Indigenous Roots brings deep connections with diverse communities, ancestral practices, and cultural arts,” said Tonya Allen, president of the Foundation. “This new collaboration and the launch of the Fellowships for Culture Bearers will celebrate and elevate the vital work that culture bearers do for people and planet.”

“The culture bearers fellowships are a confluence of dreams come to fruition!” said Mary Anne Quiroz, co-founder and co-director of Indigenous Roots. “The McKnight Foundation has been a vital partner in Indigenous Roots’ development, and the launch of the Fellowships for Culture Bearers builds on the trust that we have already established.”

More About Culture Bearers:

Culture bearer fellows will practice creatively as healers, storytellers, dancers (ancestral to hip-hop), makers (instruments, print, textiles, mixed media), drummers, and preservers of languages. Differing from individual artistic practice, culture bearing is understood to be a full-life tradition, an approach to life and cultural expression that includes the intergenerational transmission of learning and preservation of ancestral knowledge.

McKnight’s recent addition of culture bearers to the Arts & Culture program goal acknowledges that we provide support to creative leaders in Minnesota from cultures that don’t use the word artist (such as Native American and Hmong), as well as those who center the transmission and preservation of cultural lifeways.

A Warm Welcome to Indigenous Roots

The McKnight Foundation is excited to welcome Indigenous Roots into the community of McKnight Artist Fellowship partners. Indigenous Roots offers culturally relevant programming, workshops, trainings, and gatherings to advance wellness, promote indigenous and ancestral knowledge, develop youth leadership, and catalyze social change through cultural arts and activism.

Founded in 2017, Indigenous Roots is an incubator and co-working space based in St. Paul that provides accessible convening spaces, artist studios, and a community art gallery. It also provides organizational and business support for a coalition of artists and cultural groups that are dedicated to building, supporting, and cultivating opportunities for Native, Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples.

In January 2021, continuing the expansion of the McKnight Artist Fellowships program, McKnight reached out to Indigenous Roots to explore the development of new fellowships intended to support artists committed to preserving and advancing traditional creative practices in Minnesota. In the spring, Indigenous Roots met with culture bearers and community members to design the new fellowships and consolidated their input in a proposal to McKnight. In August, the McKnight board approved the funding for the new Fellowships for Culture Bearers. Submission opportunities for these fellowships will go live in October 2021. Information sessions and additional assistance will be available starting in October and continue through the submission deadline in December 2021.

McKnight Artist Fellowships Program Completes Final Phase of Expansion

McKnight Artist Fellowships catalyze the creativity, leadership, and power of Minnesota’s artists and culture bearers. Over the past five years, the McKnight Foundation has added nearly $1 million in annual support for the McKnight Artist Fellowships program. This expansion has broadened the program’s scope; launched dedicated fellowships for printmakers, community-engaged artists, fiber artists, book artists, and culture bearers; added six new fellowships partners; and created new residency opportunities for all McKnight fellows. With the launch of the Fellowships for Culture Bearers this fall, the McKnight Artist Fellowships program will annually fund 47 fellowships of $25,000 each, all in unrestricted support, for artists and culture bearers throughout Minnesota.

Click here for more information on Indigenous Roots and here for information on McKnight Artist Fellowships.

Our Growing Team

This month, we welcomed Ben Passer, senior program officer on the Midwest Climate & Energy team, and Dominic McQuerry, a joint program officer working with the Vibrant & Equitable Communities and Midwest Climate & Energy programs to the McKnight team.

We’re also looking for a new International Program Officer and two Vibrant & Equitable Communities Program Officers. Click here to view the job postings.

Topic: Arts & Culture

September 2021