We Are in This Together
Rieke, Rennan
/ Categories: From the Director

We Are in This Together

As world events become local, we thank our constituents for postponing and cancelling events and making accommodations for staff and volunteers. MAC is committed to everything possible to be flexible and understanding with deadlines and grant funding. We will continue to monitor resources for the creative sector and share them across our social media feeds.

The National Endowment is also tuned in, as reflected in this message from NEA Chair Mary Anne Carter:

“As America confronts this period of unprecedented change and uncertainty, we want to assure you that one thing will not change: our support for the arts across this great nation.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is open for business. Our staff, while working remotely for the next several weeks, is available to you via phone or email, as usual …

“We know that there are more than five million Americans who make their livelihoods in the broader arts and cultural sector across the country and are potentially at risk. We also know that the arts provide comfort, resilience, wisdom, and the means for self-expression and connection, perhaps even more so during challenging times such as these.

“As you focus on the health and safety of yourself and your loved ones, please know that we are in this together, and that you can continue to rely on our full support.”

Making Native Nations visible

Twice in the past six months, I’ve had the opportunity to hear presentations on the research and findings behind “Reclaiming Native Truth,” available at the website of the same name. In developing the report, researchers examined the understanding and perceptions of Native Americans by their fellow Americans. Among the findings:

  • 40% of Americans don’t believe that Native Americans are a living culture
  • 72% of Americans rarely receive information on Native Americans, past or present
  • .04% of media includes Native characters

According to “Becoming Visible,” a companion publication to the research referenced, the public school education system is the most powerful tool for shaping public opinion. In their nation-wide assessment, researchers note the decades-long efforts of the National Indian Education Association to advocate for a curriculum that includes an accurate history and contemporary Native issues and accomplishments.

Despite these efforts, 87% of history standards don’t mention Natives after 1900. A bright spot: the report recognizes Montana for allocating resources, having dedicated staff at the Office of Public Instruction, and working with Native Nations to implement Indian Education for All.

The nonprofit IllumiNative, formed to act on the findings of “Reclaiming Native Truths,” states that invisibility is the modern form of violence against Native Americans. The exhibit of “Apsáalooke Women and Warriors” has the potential to make substantial strides in advancing a truthful and accurate narrative.

Touted as the first major exhibit curated by a Native American scholar, it involves many Montana contemporary Apsáalooke artists along with sacred items that have not been on display for more than 100 years. We are lucky that the Billings Gazette has provided abundant coverage of the exhibit, including sending journalist Anna Paige to cover the openings in Chicago.

If you find the article reprinted in this issue interesting, I encourage you to look at the Gazette’s other pieces. It’s been wonderful to see my social media feeds flooded with images of the artists and the exhibits.

Montana Arts Council has been thinking deeply about ways that we can remove barriers to state resources and increase access to arts opportunities. As we move toward greater equity, I’m glad to have the State of the Arts newspaper to share what we find inspiring about Montana. Please don’t hesitate to let us know what more we can uncover.

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