Native Artists Gather to Learn More About the Business Side of Art

CARTER LAKE, IOWA – Native artists from four tribes gathered in Iowa March 11-12 to participate in professional development training.

Members of the Omaha, Lakota, Yankton and Oglala Sioux nations took part in the two-day session at the Holiday Inn Express. The event was organized by Native 360 Loan Fund with funding from the USDA.  Training was conducted by Wyoming modern artist Robert Martinez (Northern Arapaho) and Leslie A Deer, an apparel designer and member of the Muscogee (Mvskoke) Nation.

The two trainers are members of First People’s Fund, a Rapids city, SD, nonprofit that has developed a detailed business development curriculum specifically for native artists.

Participants practiced elevator speeches to promote their art and learned about budgeting and financials as well as funding sources, art shows, booth design, web design, ecommerce, marketing and other topics. Reviews of the training were positive with each member saying they left the sessions feeling better prepared to further their careers in art.

“It was very enjoyable and informative,” said Lincoln horse hair pottery artist Bruce W. Long. “I would definitely recommend it to any artist who is getting started and wants to learn more about the business side of things.”

Pete Upton, executive director of Native 360 Loan Fund, said the organization will be doing more work with Native artists later this year. A skills training and ecommerce initiative is in the works. Interested Native artists should contact for more information.

“We do both online and in-person training sessions for entrepreneurs throughout the year, but it was great to conduct a session specifically for Native artists because the business side of art can be really challenging,” Upton said. “The artists who attended are committed to honoring our ancestors in a modern way. I can’t wait to see where they go from here and I hope they continue to take advantage of our free online training platform and other resources.”

Native360 Loan Fund provides affordable credit, capital, technical assistance and related programs to help build strong and self-sufficient Native American business owners. A Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the organization serves members of all tribes in its Nebraska, Iowa and southeast South Dakota service area.