SHARP Grantee Spotlight

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Can you give a brief history of your organization?

The primary goal of A VOICE-Art Vision & Outreach In Community Education is to foster excitement and confidence in youth who may not otherwise have this opportunity. It is our hope that the skills and self-confidence nurtured in literary and visual arts learning will provide tools for young people to aid them in their decisions and endeavors, to guide them toward success. It is our mission to foster individual, group, community, and cultural vision and expression through art, outreach, and education. We are based on the Flathead Nation in western Montana, and we carry out projects in rural Tribal communities and in Lake and Saunders counties.

Our arts education work is led by working artists and authors who are committed teachers recognized for their work nationally and internationally. We amplify our work through partnerships with community leaders and teachers. We expect a serious commitment from the students and young people we serve. We provide them the tools to become expressive art makers, moving storytellers, and engaged citizens. In addition to our daily work in local schools and communities, we collaborate with organizations beyond the beautiful Flathead Valley so the young people we serve can experience other peoples, landscapes, and cultures, and share their work with wider audiences. In everything we do, we are committed to reaching out to and to having a positive impact on each young person we serve. 

Do you have an example of a program that exemplifies your organization’s mission or work?

Our Community Record Two Eagle River School, which is central to our work at A VOICE, is a collaborative project between photographer David J. Spear and Two Eagle River School in Pablo, a Tribal middle and high school serving Native American students living on the Flathead Nation in northwestern Montana. Through storytelling and photographic studies, Our Community Record teaches these students to explore and document their community, culture, and history. Thanks to the success of the program, photography has become a popular element of the school’s curriculum and has been used to supplement science, history, government, writing, and art classes. Our Community Record has run each academic school year since January 2002 and continues to evolve within the structure and foundation established in earlier years of the project. An exhibition of student work is displayed at the school at the end of each of term. Students learn about visual communication and photographic technique through classroom instruction, camera work, and field trips. Image lectures on photography include special emphasis on social chroniclers of culture. Students are encouraged to reflect upon family and community and become their own chroniclers, incorporating their unique views into their creations. Each year, students visit area galleries and museums and meet with local photographers who show and discuss their work. Our Community Record maintains an archive of the original work produced each year by Tribal youth, which serves as an enduring chronicle and documentary resource for the community.

How do you intend to use your SHARP Grant?

With funding from this SHARP grant, we hope to continue and grow our work by adding paid staff positions.

How did you learn about Humanities Montana, and why did you choose to apply for a grant with us?

We first approached Humanities Montana in 2002, and they provided start-up and seed money funding for Our Community Record Two Eagle River School. Humanities Montana has generously supported our work for nearly 20 years.

More information about A VOICE-Art Vision & Outreach In Community Education can be found at their website.