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CHICAGO — Comtemporary Native American fine art graces the walls of the Center for Native Futures (CfNF), in the heart of Chicago's Loop, which held the grand opening of its art gallery on Saturday afternoon. Eager art fans arrived early and by the scheduled time for the event arrived, the galley was packed with members of the Chicago Native American community and members of the public who were excited to see the fine art.

Founded in 2020, the Center for Native Futures, a non-profit fine arts organization operates the gallery with the same name. CfNF grew out a vision to have an art galley so that Native American artists in Chicago could have a place to exhibit their contemporary Native art. Native Americans founded the non-profit, run the organization, and the art gallery. The two leading co-founders were Debra Yepa-Pappan (Jemez Pueblo), CfNF’s director of exhibition & programs and Monica Rickcrt-Bolter (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) the organization's director of operations,

It is the first Native Amercan art gallery in Chicago. Its prime location is in the heart of Chicago's Loop, directly across the street from alder’s Flamingo sculpture at Federal Square, at 56 West Adams.

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"We've never really had a space like this in the city of Chicago. We're here representing. We're in charge. We're the ones representing ourselves here. So, this really means alot to us," Debra Yepa-Pappan (Jemez Pueblo), CfNF’s co-founder and director of exhibition & programs. 

Debra Yepa-Pappan 

Because of a family emergency, Monica Rickcrt-Bolter (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation), CfNF's co-founder and director of operations, was unable to be present on Saturday afternoon, but sent a statement that was read by Yepa-Pappan.

"Far too often Native narratives have been filled with heartache and are restricted to a place in history. We have a future that no longer needs to be shaped by outside limitations." Rickert-Bolter said in her statement. 

The Native futures theme is rooted in "Indigenous Futurism" that if often used in science fiction. “Indigenous Futurism isn’t only limited to science fiction; through art, we’re turning visions into reality," Yepa-Pappan explains.

"Indigenous Futurism(s) are artistic means for expanding possibilities and realities by imagining our realities without colonial limitations. The definition  of this term is ever-changing and dynamic," reads the CfNF's webstie.

Andrea Carlson (Ojibwe), another co-founder said that visitors may be surprised that the art made by contemporary Native artists may not be consistent with what they have come to expect as being Native American art. 

"They're going to be people that show up to this space that may think I don't see this as authentic Native art. To me, it's like: 'It's challenging you and those expectations that you bring to us and you're saddling us with those expectations or stereotypes.' We're allowed to change. We're not monolithic. We're doing different things with different materials that we have access to now and when we're saying different things. So I think that's this space is going to support all that," Carlson told Native News Online. "We can imagine our futures. We can put on the walls what we want to see--and who betten than us?"

Photos by Levi Rickert

Members of the Native American community.


Horse Mask by John Hitchcock (Comanche/Kiowa) 


Cultural Appropriations by Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk Nation)


Native Women by June Carpenter (Osage)

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].