Indigenous artists receive professional training at two-day CalArts course

Artists met at CalArts to receive instruction from photographer Roxanne Best, second row left, on how create a productive presence with art. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

The First Peoples Fund and the Pukúu Cultural Community Services coordinated to bring the two-day Native Artist Professional Development Training course to the California Institute of the Arts on Friday and Saturday. 

“This training is designed to give them some tools to know the value of their work, to understand how to promote and how to sell and the options in the art industry for indigenous artists,” said Roxanne Best, First Peoples Fund trainer.

Over a dozen artists gathered to learn several techniques on how to be successful entrepreneurs, such as creating a website to showcase an artist’s various abilities and experiences, how to effectively use social media and what websites are best for selling art online. 

“A lot of this course is based on core values and what is your idea of success,” Best said. “If my idea of success is just being able to sell one pair of earrings, that’s different than someone else who’s looking to get a big name and create their own organization like (native-owned Seattle business) Eighth Generation or what (native designer) Bethany Yellowtail is doing and creating that artist collective.” 

Originally from Rapid City, SD, First Peoples Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources and a voice for indigenous artists, based on the values of generosity, respect, humility and fortitude. Pukúu was founded by the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, based in San Fernando. Pukúu is a charitable nonprofit organization that provides services for low income American Indian families, including emergency relief, education and cultural awareness, according to their website.  

“In LA, we have a large native artist community in general because there is a lot of entertainment-related industry here, folks working in various mediums,” said Eric Sanchez, executive director of Pukúu. “At the same time, how many folks really feel like they have the business acumen to be both successful in their field but also stay true to their community.”

Looking ahead, Sanchez said the two groups want to continue to work with CalArts to open it up to native artist community through art exhibitions and other forms of engagement. Best said the goal for indigenous artists is to create a community and unique products “that speak from (the) heart.”

“Operating with a wide net but also realizing where we originate from and hopefully fine-tune those relationships with the institutions within those boundaries and creating deeper, more meaningful relationships,” Sanchez said.

To learn more about First Peoples Fund, go to To learn more about Pukúu Cultural Community Services, go to

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