Cherokee Artist Recovery Act: A “New Deal” for Cherokee Creativity | news


In 1935 the United States was still in the grip of the Great Depression. Millions of people felt the effects of the economic crisis, including the country’s artists.

In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt incorporated a number of artists’ assistance programs into his broader New Deal program. Like so many other countries in the country, the artists suffered from the harsh economic conditions during the Great Depression. “Artists,” said one of President Roosevelt’s advisers, “must eat too.”

The most prominent and enduring of these programs was the Federal Art Project, part of the Works Progress Administration. During its 1935-43 tenure, the Federal Art Project brought thousands of artists to work in a country that needed hope. The project produced over 150,000 artworks, ranging from paintings to sculptures and murals to posters.

The arts programs of the New Deal era revitalized the arts community in the United States and produced a new generation of talented American artists. Both established artists and young rising stars created works of art that reflect the nation’s hopes, concerns and aspirations in a way that endures to this day. Art funded by New Deal can be found across the country. These works of art still inspire today.

Today we are on the heels of an economic and public health crisis that, while a far cry from the Great Depression, has impacted Cherokees near and far and in all walks of life. During the pandemic, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, the Cherokee Nation Council, and I have developed a series of relief programs that have provided over $750,000,000 in direct cash assistance to Cherokee citizens.

Inspired by the New Deal-era Federal Art Project, Deputy Chief Warner and I proposed the Cherokee Artist Recovery Act (ARA) to Council this week. After three years of art galleries closing, art classes being postponed, art markets going virtual and the purchasing power of art patrons shrinking, Cherokee artists deserve a boost.

If approved, ARA will inject $3 million into the Cherokee art community over the next three years. We will spend at least $1.5 million to purchase art from Cherokee artists. Funds are also available under the legislation to make capital improvements to our existing arts facilities. The proposed law provides funding for Cherokee art education so our great artists can make money by teaching and inspiring a new generation of Cherokee artists to follow in their footsteps.

The legislation goes even further. To help artists get back into business, the law provides funding for a range of support services, including marketing assistance and trips to art markets. The law will also establish the Cherokee Artist Resource Database, a comprehensive list of all known Cherokee artists. The database can serve both as a marketing resource and as a means of preserving information about artists for posterity.

Within the framework of the ARA we can support a wide range of art forms. The proposed law defines “art” broadly, covering any “Cherokee Nation citizen” engaged in “any of the various creative arts.” We must, to the greatest extent possible, encourage the artistic creativity of as many Cherokee Indians as possible without barriers.

I intend to entrust the administration of the Artist Recovery Act to our Cultural Tourism Department. This is the group of talented men and women who design and run our great museums, art exhibitions and other existing art programs. If approved, this new $3 million initiative will add to the millions we already invest annually to support Cherokee artists, purchase their art, and share their amazing creativity with the world.

My hope is that the proposed ARA will achieve several important goals. First, I hope it will help Cherokee artists reclaim what they have lost economically due to the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, I hope the art education component of the law will inspire Cherokee creativity, especially in a new generation of young Cherokee who strive to make a positive artistic impact on the world—and make a living doing it.

Finally, I hope ARA will further the collective efforts of Cherokee artists to preserve and revitalize what it means to be Cherokee. Throughout history, Cherokee artistic expression has reflected who we are as a distinct people, our connection to the spiritual world, our deepest concerns, and our highest aspirations. To ensure that Cherokee culture remains strong and vibrant into the future, we must stand behind our artists today. I believe the Artist Recovery Act will do just that.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the most important chief of the Cherokee Nation.


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