A New President and a New Start for the Art Center! December 01 2017

It is a rare and humbling experience when something comes together so perfectly that there is no question it is meant to be. But that has always been the case with the Pine Ridge Art Center. Since its conception in 2013, we have received affirmation and support from, most importantly, the artisans of Pine Ridge, but also from our many partners and supporters. That does not mean our efforts have been without difficulty. It is not easy doing business on the Reservation. It can be challenging working with people who truly struggle every day. The obstacles can be overwhelming and some days it has even seemed impossible that we will reach our goals of creating a full-fledged art center on the Reservation.

But we have pressed on, focusing for the past two years on our web site, which connects the world with the beauty and importance of Lakota art, and which is a necessary first step in reaching our other goals. And as the manager of the web site, I have to admit I got pretty comfortable with the idea that although nowhere close to our original goals, the web site was doing some good and maybe that was enough.

Enter Brendon Albers.

Brendon is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who lives and works on the Pine Ridge Reservation. A stone sculptor working primarily in Black Hills alabaster, Albers was awarded the First People's Fund Artist in Business Leadership Fellowship in 2015 and the Cultural Capital Fellowship in 2016. In addition to studio work, Mr Albers works with First Peoples Fund, The Keya Foundation, and other organizations to share his passion for art, sense of purpose, suicide prevention and Lakota values with youth, through classes and workshops in art and Native traditions.

Albers says a series of challenges helped him find purpose, led him to his art, and now, to being the right person to lead the Art Center. “This nonprofit gives me more opportunity to use that experience to help other artists develop confidence and overcome the many obstacles we all face here on the Reservation.”

Not only has he embraced our vision for the Art Center (see www.pineridgeartcenter.com/pages/whoweare), but he comes to us with his own vision for promoting and empowering Lakota artisans. He has already introduced us to other organizations and artists whose successes will help the Art Center and the lesser-known artists we serve today, as well as to new funding opportunities. He is interested in expanding our effectiveness on Pine Ridge by inviting Lakota artists from other Reservations and we will be testing this with our “Seven Council Fires Lakota Arts Initiative” beginning January. He is especially supportive of our goals to host outdoor events, adding that this has been a goal of his as well, even offering his land as home base. 

“I do believe that I’m supposed to jump at any opportunities to help Lakota artists,” says Mr Albers. “I want to help all artists feel a part of a great family that will always be there for them. We want to help older artists get back in the game with technology. We can also help heal and educate young artists in developing personal business growth. I just know what art has done for me: It gave me life and I want to pass that gift on. We will offer space that can provide spirit for the growth of artists young and old. Anything I can do, I will. I envision an online museum and store that connects people directly to Native artists and their lives and culture. We will provide a starting block and a trusted family so that artists can grow in their work and be successful. My heart is for all Lakota artists because we are all in this together on the Reservations. If we provide the path, I believe people will respond in a good, healthy way. I see this role as the perfect counterpart to my time sculpting in the studio. With prayer and sacrifice, I’m sure we will be guided by the Great Spirit. These are good things all meant to be.”

Yes, all good things meant to be. Welcome Brendon!

Photo courtesy First People's Fund.