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CHICAGO — The Center for Native Futures, a fine arts organization operated by Chicago-based Native American artists, will have its grand opening for its art gallery in the heart of downtown Chicago this coming weekend.

Located across the street from the Calder’s Flamingo sculpture at Federal Square, at 56 West Adams, the Center for Native Futures (CfNF) will open its doors to the public on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at 4 pm - CDT. The grand opening celebration will last until 7 pm - CDT and will resume on Sunday at 12 noon until 4 pm - CDT. (Note: A private reception will be held for the Native American community at 3 pm - CDT).

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The new art gallery promotes Native arts, artists, and writers, who have been culturally displaced and underrepresented through exhibitions, residencies, programs, conferences, and partnerships. By offering a platform for these artists and writers, CfNF also challenges the definition and assumptions of “Native Arts” and encourages Indigenous Futurists.

“This initiative has been a long time coming and the outpour of support is a clear indication that the city wants more contemporary Native art,” Monica Rickert-Bolter (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation), CfNF’s co-founder and director of operations said. “CfNF is an investment in the community and a reaffirmation of the need for Indigenous artists for future generations.”

Debra Yepa-Pappan and Monica Rickert-Bolter. two of the co-founders of the Center for Native Futures. (Photo/Levi Rickert)

The inaugural "Native Futures" exhibition promises to showcase the creative brilliance of more than a dozen established and emerging Native artists hailing from the Great Lakes region. This impressive collection will include works by CfNF co-founders Noelle Garcia, Kelly Church, Jason Wesaw, Tom Jones, Holly Wilson, John Hitchcock, Camille Billie, June Carpenter, Codak Smith, Le’Ana Asher, Dakota Mace, Ji Hae Yepa-Pappan, Chelsea Big Horn, Lydia Cheshewalla, Hattie Lee, and the TIES poets. Additionally, the event will shine a spotlight on women-owned businesses and feature a special guest performance by Lakota hip-hop artist Frank Waln.

“We’re designing a foundation for working with Native artists and exhibiting their artwork within Chicago,” Debra Yepa-Pappan (Jemez Pueblo), CfNF’s Co-Founder and Director of Exhibition & Programs elaborated. “Indigenous Futurism isn’t only limited to science fiction; through art, we’re turning visions into reality.”

The art gallery's mission is to champion Native arts, artists, and writers who have historically been marginalized or displaced. This is accomplished through exhibitions, residencies, programs, conferences, and partnerships. By providing a platform for these talented individuals, CfNF aims to challenge preconceived notions of "Native Arts" and inspire Indigenous Futurists.

The co-founders of CfNF, who are accomplished artists and writers themselves, include Andrea Carlson (Ojibwe), Debra Yepa-Pappan (Jemez Pueblo), Chris Pappan (Kanza/Osage/Lakota), Monica Rickert-Bolter (Potawatomi), Patrick Del Percio (Cherokee descent), and River Kerstetter (Wisconsin Oneida). Each of them has revitalized their respective cultural practices, preserving traditional art forms while seamlessly integrating modern materials and styles into their work.

Founded in 2020, the art center has hosted virtual artist talks and poetry readings, advised institutions and organizations, and nurtured artists within the Urban Native Community. In partnership with the Terra Foundation for American Art and MacArthur Foundation.

The art gallery will be open to the public Wednesday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm.

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