Indigenous Arts Initiative

Creating opportunity and supporting Indigenous artists

Peter Jasso, Director, Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission

(785) 296-2178


Kate Van Steenhuyse, KCAIC Chief Programs Officer


The Indigenous Arts Initiative (IAI) supports a rotating series of Indigenous art labs that provide Indigenous artists an opportunity to hone creative skills, expand professional networks and gain leadership experience through collaborative, mentor-based programming at the University of Kansas.

As a partnership between KCAIC, KU Film and Media Studies, the Spencer Museum of Art and the Lied Center, the IAI offers a series of collaborative workshops, masterclasses and public events in Lawrence, Kansas, that coincide with the annual KU Indigenous Cultures Festival. In addition to training and mentoring emerging artists, the goal of the Initiative is to enhance Indigenous leadership at the border of artistic and community practice, while strengthening ties between the State of Kansas and Indigenous communities. Each year, mid-career Visiting Artists are selected from a range of mediums, including visual art, film and media, and music and performance to instruct and mentor artists from across Kansas.

IAI Visiting Artists will present a three-to-four-day workshop in their respective mediums. At the end of the workshop period, each Visiting Artist will choose one or two proposed projects from among their participants, in consultation with the IAI Committee, to mentor the emerging artists as they complete their new work. Completed works will be showcased at an exhibition in 2022.

2021 IAI Visiting Artists

Nanobah Becker

Filmmaking Workshop:

Filmmaker Nanobah Becker’s workshop will explore how incorporating Diné values has strengthened her storytelling. Nanobah will also share information about how a director can effectively work with collaborators (cinematographer, actor, producer, etc.) to elevate their work.

About the Artist: Becker (Navajo) is an award-winning filmmaker and producer whose work has screened at numerous international film festivals. She is the recipient of the National Video Resources Media Arts Fellowship and was selected for the Native Forum Filmmaker’s Workshop at the Sundance Film Festival.

October 7-9, 2021

Apply Now for Workshop Registration
Cara Romero

Photography Workshop

Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero creates evocative portraits that reflect the diversity of contemporary Indigenous experiences. During this four-day workshop, Romero will ask participants to consider how photographs tell stories, connect us with collective histories, and foster a sense of community and belonging. Under Romero’s guidance, participants will work together to develop a collaborative project, which will culminate in a staged group photography shoot on the final day of the workshop. In addition, each person will use workshop time to brainstorm an individual project using newly gained expertise.

About the Artist: Romero aims to share both artistic and practical skills in photography, aesthetics, lighting, editing, and project planning and management. She also hopes to promote dialogue about shared cultural identity, critical thinking, and problem-solving that will be more broadly applicable. This workshop welcomes photographers of all skill levels; no previous experience or personal equipment will be necessary to participate.

October 6-9, 2021

Apply Now for Workshop Registration
Carlos Rivera

Dance Workshop: 

Body + Spirit = Land Connection

Throughout a series of movement exercises based on traditional and contemporary dance techniques, the participants in this workshop will develop a reunion with the land, leading them to make strong ties with their bodies and the land where we stand, walk, and dance.

About the Artist: Led by Carlos Rivera, an artist with plenty of experience as a performer, choreographer, and director, he will share some of his experiences, creating a conscious relationship with the land, movement, and human bodies.

Cuerpo + Espíritu = Conexión terrestre

A través de una serie de ejercicios de movimiento basados en técnicas de danza tradicional y contemporánea, los participantes de este taller desarrollarán un reencuentro con la tierra, llevándolos a crear fuertes lazos con sus cuerpos y la tierra donde nos paramos, caminamos y bailamos.

About the Artist: Dirigido por Carlos Rivera, artista con amplia experiencia como intérprete, coreógrafo y director; el compartirá algunas de sus experiencias sobre la creacion de una relación consciente con la tierra, el movimiento y los cuerpos humanos.

Workshop schedule TBA

Apply Now for Workshop Registration

Past Visiting Artists

Joseph Erb (Cherokee)

Filmmaking Workshop: Digital Animation

Joseph Lewis Erb, Cherokee Nation Citizen, will teach a workshop about how to animate Indigenous stories. Participants will learn the principles of Indigenous storytelling while also learning the fundamentals of animation. Participants will learn to use 2D software like Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro. The workshop will be delivered in a series of discussions, lectures and short projects.

About the Artist: Joseph Erb is an artist, computer animator, film producer and educator enrolled in the Cherokee Nation. He is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri in the School of Visual Studies. Joseph has spent much of his life working to integrate Cherokee language into the latest technologies. In 2002, Erb created the first-ever Native American computer animation, as well as the first-ever computer animation in the Cherokee language titled, “The Beginning They Told.” He has taught animation to Muskogee Creek and Cherokee students using traditional stories in their own Native language. Erb has spent years working on projects that expanded the use of the Cherokee language in technologies and new media. These projects resulted in several successes such as Cherokee language on the iPhone, Cherokee Google Search engine, Gmail in Cherokee, Facebook in Cherokee and Microsoft Operating System Windows 8 in Cherokee. He helped to create working relationships between Cherokee Nation and technology companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft that still exist today. His award-winning digital stories are shown in film festivals across the world. In 2016, he received the Cherokee Nation Community Leadership award, and in 2017, he received the Cherokee Nation Community Organization award for strengthening the Cherokee language and culture, including his role as program coordinator for the Cherokee Nation Remember the Removal program. His work crosses many disciplines in service to Cherokee community, culture and language.

November 12-15, 2020
Virtual Event

Registration is now closed

Dana Warrington (Menominee/Prairie Band Potawatomi)

Visual Art Workshop: Traditional Quillwork

Master artist instructor and quiller Dana Warrington, Menominee and Potawatomi, will lead this workshop. During the interactive session, you will learn the process of sorting, dying, fabricating molds, designing, wrapping and putting your quill project together. As a participant, all of your materials required for this workshop will be provided at no cost to you. Due to the limited timeframe to conduct this workshop, the workshop will be intense learning and will require your dedication and commitment to finish the program. At the conclusion of the workshop, the Initiative committee, along with artist Dana Warrington, will choose one participant to work on an extended project. The master artist and participant will identify a project on which to collaborate.

About the Artist: Dana Warrington is an enrolled Prairie Band Potawatomi tribal member of Kansas as well a proud Menominee of Wisconsin. He was born in northern Wisconsin and currently resides in Cherokee, NC. Warrington has been creating traditional quill work since 2011 and has won numerous awards at the largest native art markets in the United States. In 2017, Warrington won three awards including Best in Show at the Eiteljorg Indian Art Market. That same year, he won first and second place at the Santa Fe Indian Art Market. Since then, Warrington has participated in numerous art markets including the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix, Ari.; Eiteljorg Indian Art Market in Indianapolis, Ind.; Santa Fe Indian Art Market and Santa Fe Winter Art Market in Santa Fe, NM; Cherokee Indian Art Market in Tulsa, Okla.; and the National Museum of American Indian Art Market in New York, NY.

Oct. 14-18, 2020 10am–6pm
In-person, limited attendance with COVID-19 pre-cautions in place

Registration is now closed

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