Two Montanans named Artists in Business Leadership Fellows
Gomez, Czelsi
/ Categories: Native News

Two Montanans named Artists in Business Leadership Fellows

Two Montanans named Artists in Business Leadership Fellows

Two Montanans – visual artist Ben Pease and musician Joseph Running Crane – were among the dozen 2019 recipients of First Peoples Fund Artists in Business Leadership Fellowships.

 “First Peoples Fund has funded performing artists in the past but this is the first year almost half our fellows are performing artists,” Amber Hoy, FPF Program Manager of Fellowships, said in a story announcing the fellowships. “This is an area where we are expanding. It’s great to have this cohort of performing artists that can really share different ways of creative expression.”

Traditional arts, film, mixed media, fashion design, and a variety of other visual arts are also represented in this year’s group of 12 recipients.


Ben Pease (Crow Tribe of Montana, Northern Cheyenne Tribe and Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation) is a versatile artist, skilled in drawing, graphic design, mixed media, painting, photography, regalia/fashion design, sculpture and storytelling, who lives in Billings.

From his website ( “My journey as a storyteller stands as a continuation and protection of our contemporary indigenous cultures.”

At 29 years old, the Crow/Northern Cheyenne artist stands firmly upon the ideal of education via creativity, as a contemporary storyteller. Pease’s work is known for its unique and culturally relevant style using historic photographic references while simultaneously touching on current events and issues. He often collages both antique and contemporary items into his work to create literal and conceptual reference points. 

 As minorities in the world of art, contemporary Indigenous artists are confronting issues like cultural appropriation, exotification, racism and stereotype disguised as appreciation and oblivion. Pease’s work continually, yet respectfully, asks “how?” and “why?”

“Many times, the question is more important than the answer. What really matters, is the path.”


Joseph Running Crane (Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation) is a musician who resides in Browning.

Aaron Parrett mentioned Running Crane in his 2016 book, Montana Americana Music: Boot Stomping in The Big Sky:

“Joseph was weaned on punk rock and hard-core, a huge fan of The Minutemen and The Dead Kennedys since practically grade school. He grew up in Browning, Montana on the Blackfeet Reservation, and his early influences were loud, heavy, and hard rock. Still, his recent songs have taken on a more wistful tone and use an acoustic sound far removed from the angsty and frenetic electric punk sound.”


First Peoples Fund Fellowships

Through the Artists in Business Leadership and Cultural Capital Fellowships, First Peoples Fund partners with Native artists and culture bearers to strengthen their business skills and to ensure that art, culture and ancestral knowledge are passed from one generation to the next. 

FPF selects 20-25 artists annually for these one-year fellowship programs. Fellows receive $5,000 project grants, technical support and professional training to start or grow a thriving arts business and to further their important work in their communities. 

Applicants must be an enrolled member or provide proof of lineal descendancy of a U.S. federally recognized tribe, a state recognized tribe, or be an Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian. 

Learn more at


Photos: “Apsaalooke Madonna and Child” by Ben Pease, Singer/songwriter Joseph Running Crane




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