Cheyenne River Youth Project Art Interns Experience Weekend Art Retreat in Minneapolis

Interns with their lead instructor, Peyton Scott Russell (center), who is based in Minneapolis.

Interns with their lead instructor, Peyton Scott Russell (center), who is based in Minneapolis.

Published December 1, 2015

EAGLE BUTTE, SOUTH DAKOTA — On November 13-15, the Cheyenne River Youth Project took its second cohort of art interns on a weekend art retreat that gave the eight teenagers an unparalleled opportunity to experience the Minneapolis art scene. CRYP staff members accompanied Xzanndria Norris, 15, Jaymalee Turning Heart, 14, Tori Jensen, 16, Ranger Gunville, 16, Nathanial Fast Wolf, 13, Donovan Moran, 13, Maxwell Peacock, 14, and Edward Norris Jr., 13, on their two-day adventure in the big city, which is home to two of their art instructors.

After arriving at the Hyatt and enjoying a movie night on Friday, the teens embarked on their art tour Saturday morning with a two-hour stop at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, followed by beverages and lunch at Espresso Royale and Uncle Frankie’s Hot Dogs. During the afternoon hours, they had the chance to tour the art studio belonging to Peyton Scott Russell, their lead art instructor, and tour some of the city’s most famous murals with Peyton and with Biafra, also a CRYP guest instructor.

Art intern Xzanndria Norris, 15, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Art intern Xzanndria Norris, 15, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

The Cheyenne River community had the chance to become acquainted with both Peyton and Biafra through the art internship program’s first cohort last spring — and through the RedCan graffiti jam in July, in which both men were featured artists. They contributed murals to CRYP’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park and to select sites along Eagle Butte’s Main Street, which remain on view today.

The Minneapolis murals made a definite impression on the young art interns, according to Jerica Rivers, youth programs assistant.

“Ranger, Tori and I were at a mural site, and it was dark,” she recalled. “But Ranger and Tori were still looking around, taking pictures. We started talking about people interpreting graffiti, and they said how it would be cool to have people guessing all day about your piece of graffiti, yet every person sees it differently.

“They said their graffiti could be bright and colorful so others would feel happy, or so it would turn their day around, and they felt they should have something like that on their way to school or in the school,” she added. “It was a big discussion, and it revolved around the idea that they wanted to make others feel better at school. I thought it was impressive that we were in Minneapolis, and they were still thinking of their friends back home and about bettering their community.”

Saturday evening concluded with supper at Pizza Luce. On Sunday, the Cheyenne River group visited the Walker Sculpture Garden and Birchbark Books, had lunch at the Teppanyaki Chinese Buffet, and then made the long trip back to Eagle Butte.

“I think the visit was overwhelming,” reflected Julie Garreau,” CRYP’s executive director. “Most of the kids had never traveled to large cities, or participated in any event that has art as the primary focus. I feel the experience really will hit them after they’ve been home, when they have some time to focus. They’ll be talking about this for a long time to come. We’re planning to take our next cohort of art interns, as well.”

Tammy Eagle Hunter, youth programs director, said the retreat weekend was an excellent way to introduce the teens to art appreciation and comprehension.

“Learning how you can tell a story or make a statement through art is a big part of our art internship program,” she observed. “I made a point of stopping with them to explain why I liked a certain piece and giving them a chance to react.”

CRYP launched its comprehensive art internship program last spring. Each four-month internship gives young people an opportunity to build their skills in a variety of artistic disciplines, including traditional art, graffiti art, and street art.

During the four-month program, the young people engage in leadership development workshops and explore the many available career opportunities for artists. They participate in training opportunities and open studio time, are responsible for planning community events to promote Waniyetu Wowapi and related arts activities, and formally unveil their own work within the public space when it’s ready.

The teens must complete 80 hours of instruction to complete the program. Upon successful completion, they receive a $500 award for their time and commitment.

Garreau noted that what CRYP is trying to accomplish with its art internship program is unusual.

“The importance of opening doors is often overlooked,” she explained. “Our goal is to offer options and let our young people know how much is out there for them. You can be anything, even an artist.”

But the importance of art in the lives of young people goes beyond potential career paths. Garreau put it simply.

“The arts can open your mind, change your life, and heal your soul,” she said.

To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).






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