Building for Equity Capacity Building
yəhaw̓ serves Black and Brown artists, particularly Indigenous creatives. In our opening exhibition in 2018, 200+ Indigenous creators were featured in the yəhaw̓ exhibition at King Street Station with many more represented in our offsite programming and publications. Of the 200 exhibitors, about 130 identified as women, and more than 30 identified as Two Spirit / Queer. Over 100 tribal affiliations and Indigenous communities were represented from across the globe and 149 of our exhibiting artists were based in Washington, with another 24 from Oregon, 19 from British Columbia, 8 from Alaska, and 1 from Montana.
Our evolving network features an expanding team of project managers and hundreds of artists working across Coast Salish territories. In all our work, we center Indigenous voices, particularly those of women, Two Spirit and young people. Our community is vastly intergenerational, with exhibiting artists ranging from the ages of 7 to 80.
We strive for yəhaw̓-affiliated events to be free to attend whenever possible, and to pay artists competitively for their participation in exhibitions, performances, or for other hired services. Our operating budget is about $100-$150k a year.
At a recent strategic planning retreat, yəhaw̓’s Board of Directors agreed that the next step for the organization should be to acquire land. We are focused on finding a parcel of land within the Seattle city limits, hopefully around the Central District, Beacon Hill, and Rainier Valley Area. We are open to investigating land in South Park and Georgetown as well and have a priority for the land to be easily accessible by bus in the South End. It is our goal to find an undeveloped piece of land that is larger than a quarter of an acre; half an acre would be ideal. In this process, we do not plan to “develop” the land but to create art programming outside for a few years while we raise money to build one small building (under 1000 sq ft) that could house small offices and an artist residency space.
A centralized, community-focused location that will function alongside, but not within, existing art organizations, will help us better serve our mission by providing space to continue community-led programming with stability, agency, and fluidity. With Covid-19, an outdoor site in Seattle will allow for safer programming and greater flexibility for the foreseeable future.
These funds would help us build capacity to look, in a serious way, for land. This includes working with a professional grant writer for the first time, thinking about hiring our first full-time staff person, who would head this search for us, and deepening our community partnerships to see if there is an opportunity to work with folks we already know and trust on this mission.
Search for land: presently
Acquire land by mid 2022
Begin outdoor programming: Fall 2022 (outdoor installations, artist residencies, land and food sovereignty workshops with community, allowing community groups to use the land)
Continue search for larger, rural land parcel and plans to build, using Indigenous philosophies and knowledge practices, a small artist residency space and office on the site (less than 1000 sq ft).
Project Budget Notes
We have not had capacity as of yet to invest significant time exploring our land acquisition goals so this draft budget is rough. If we are lucky enough to receive this grant we’d dive into more detailed planning to refine our expenses, and the cohort session teachings would help guide our work.
We understand that a project of this scale demands staffing for project management and administrative support. Some of the roles that we plan to hire for in the future include:
Executive Administration & Project Management
$10,000 – Contract project manager for the creation of a strategic plan geared towards a capital campaign and land acquisition.
$5,000 – Paying grant writer and hiring a consultants to expand fundraising capacity, develop a capital fundraising plan and/or conduct a feasibility study.
$7,000 – Continued community outreach and feedback gathering to understand what the needs are, and how they have shifted and changed in the last year due to Covid.
$3,000 – Bookkeeper
After 4 years of community programming, over 50 events, 10,000 participants, and a lot of community-centered conversation, we keep hearing about the desire to access land. In all of our programming thus far, we have been partnering with mostly white-led organizations and granters to give us funds or space where we can have our programming. However, they often don’t understand the needs of our community and artists to experiment and create in a space without necessitating an ‘end product’ and we have experienced over and again the structures of institutional racism that create continuous barriers for indigenous artists to create, get paid, and build community. We see and hear from indigenous artists that creatives aren’t given enough opportunity to play – not with their art and not in outdoor spaces. The call we are hearing from those we serve is that we urgently need an autonomous space to create, experiment, play, learn, build community, and heal broken relationships to land.
While there are indigenous-led organizations that are getting larger parcels of land outside of the city, most of the people we serve do not have the time or capacity to take transport or drive 30 miles south to access acreage, even if it is technically open to the community. Additionally, when thinking about urban native and urban indigenous communities that are a few generations removed from land access, there is a lack of trust and knowledge of the land. yəhaw̓ is curious about how can our parcel, located in the City of Seattle with easy access to major lines of transportation, can serve as a low-risk place where indigenous artists can easily come to begin a conversation with the earth and feel a sense of kinship with land. We want to cultivate a space where we build networks of reciprocal care within an environment of trust and self determination.
We reflect the communities we serve. From our leadership, through our contractors, to our fiscal sponsor, we are entirely run by BIPOC.
Some of our most recent anti-racist work includes our Covid-19 relief and Black Lives Matter solidarity projects. In April 2020, we brought on first time curator Brit Reed (Choctaw/Black) to lead our Covid relief programs. yəhaw̓ then launched a mini-grant program to distribute unrestricted awards of $500 to Indigenous artists in our state. We received 54 eligible requests, including applicants from a wide range of ages, career stages, and from urban and local tribal communities. Initially we had funds for just 10 grants, but recognizing the dire need, we quickly reached out to local partners, and successfully raised an additional $20,000 so we could fund ALL mini-grant applicants. Funds are being dispersed now. https://yehawshow.com/covid
In June 2020, in the midst of our Covid work, we pivoted to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Thankfully Brit was already on board and she has guided us as we issued a statement of solidarity alongside a newly commissioned series of protest posters by Afro-Indigenous artists. The posters were a quick way to get money into the hands of Black creatives, and to demonstrate solidarity through art. Since then, we have held an open call for two online exhibitions for Afro-Indigenous artists, led by Brit. Through a panel process, we have selected over 30 artists who will be paid at least $300 each for their contribution to the show, with the shows going up at the end of the summer. https://yehawshow.com/black-lives-matter
We are also currently in round two of the emergency grant dispersal, as well as consulting on various public art opportunities for Native and Indigenous artists.
CAPACITY BUILDING AND FACILITIES NEEDS
As a grassroots group led by Indigenous women, fiscally sponsored by Native 501(c)(3) Na’ah Illahee Fund, we work project to project and do not readily have access to credit or additional funds. This support would be so meaningful as we try to address the urgent and growing needs of our communities, and build our work into its next evolution with a physical site. Although we are a new organization with a small team, this makes us nimble, and particularly prepared to take full advantage of this opportunity now. We believe this time, with the Black Lives Matter movement and Covid-19 pandemic changing the world as we know it, will yield to new and radical systems that will be better equipped to serve our communities equitably. We want to be a part of this transformation, and have the social infrastructure, relationships, and drive to implement our short and long term goals effectively through culturally rooted methodologies.
yəhaw̓’s leadership regularly receives input from the 200+ Indigenous artists who are part of our Indigenous Creatives Collective.
We are working hard to meet the immediate needs of our constituents, while working on longer term goals envisioning newly possible post-pandemic futures. We have been hearing a rallying cry that is gaining steam across tribal communities for #landback. In the same moment that our constituents’ needs for stability and support grow exponentially, shifting government priorities and policies have made land more accessible in Seattle. We see this as an opportunity. It is because of the necessity of sovereignty for healthy community that our central project moving forward is acquiring land within Seattle and eventually rural areas in Washington as sites for innovative outdoor arts programming and gatherings.
A centralized, community-focused location that will function alongside, but not within, existing art organizations, will help us better serve our mission by providing space to continue community-led programming with stability, agency, and fluidity. With Covid-19, an outdoor site in Seattle will allow for safer programming and greater flexibility for the foreseeable future. To kickstart our project and model possible outdoor activations, we are currently in conversation with a past partner about leasing a ¼ acre parcel of land in the Central District for a 5-year term if we can successfully fundraise to cover the cost of operations.
Our 5-10 year goal is to purchase a 50 acre parcel of land in rural Washington State that allows Indigenous, Black, and Brown peoples to experience food and water sovereignty with opportunities to design and build, using sustainable Indigenous technology, structures for art making, food growing, and community creation. Land will allow us to partner with BIPOC educational and art institutions to offer paid internships, residencies, and teaching opportunities to students, artists, and Elders, and to build an alternative community framework that privileges Indigenous knowledge in the face of an ecological crisis. This would serve as a catalyst to work with like-minded global Indigenous communities and hold knowledge sharing events that would build strength across international colonial border lines. To date, yəhaw̓ has worked exclusively with Indigenous communities in the PNW, but our goal is to broaden our scope to include non-Native Black & Brown peoples in order to support cross-community solidarity centered in Indigenous philosophies and land acknowledgement.
Throughout our land rematriation work, we will continue to use our trusted engagement methods, including mentoring community curators to lead portions of the project, commissioning temporary public artworks and performative activations, hiring artists to envision Indigenous futures in urban and rural contexts, hosting plant gathering workshops, curating conversations, and facilitating multiple means of participation for our diverse creatives to contribute.