Sally Tommie, daughter and granddaughter of traditional tribal artists Minnie Tommie and Sallie Chupco Tommie, respectively, grew up surrounded by art and experienced how sweetgrass baskets, dolls and patchwork put food on her family’s table.
As a recently appointed Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) board of directors member, Tommie will be in a position to help support Native American artists nationwide through monetary grants.
NACF is dedicated to supporting and preserving American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian arts and cultures for future generations. The national nonprofit organization has raised nearly $6.3 million since 2010 and awarded it to 163 Native artists and organizations in 26 states.
Tommie, owner of Chupco Indian Art Gallery in Hollywood, believes Native American art’s importance includes bringing a valuable perspective to contemporary life. She said she is honored to serve on the board.
“The foundation has been able to transform lives,” Tommie said. “We are charged with the preservation of art and culture. Art tells our story in our own voice.”
The 11-member board meets nine times a year, four in person and five via conference call, during which they review portfolios submitted by artists through a national call for entries process. A committee of arts professionals and NACF staff chooses the candidates, and the board chooses the fellows, or grant recipients.
“NACF’s goal is to change communities through art,” Tommie said. “Once we decide on the artists, the money awarded is based on the art that will be produced.”
Fellowship awards up to $20,000 are bestowed on individual artists working in traditional arts, music, visual arts, artistic innovation and literature. Community Inspiration Projects (CIP) grants, ranging from $10,000 to $40,000, are doled out to artists whose work will effect social change in communities.
Tommie said her mother often worked late into the night to make traditional arts and crafts in their Fort Pierce camp. As an adult, Tommie understands the sacrifices her mother made to pay the bills.
“That art fed us many days and kept us warm many nights,” she said. “I owe my life to the arts. That’s why I’m so passionate about this organization. So many people depend on art; it’s important that it survive.”
Tommie was recommended to NACF by two board members. After a vigorous vetting process that included her explanation of why Native American art is important and her involvement with the genre, she was nominated, interviewed and recommended for approval.
“We were so impressed with her communication skills and spirit of positive can-do-ness,” said NACF President and CEO T. Lulani Arquette, a Native Hawaiian. “She is an inspiring person.”
Arquette appreciates Tommie’s leadership abilities. Owner of Redline Media Group, Tommie is a successful entrepreneur with a background in communications. She also has a passion for art, which made her the perfect choice for the position, Arquette said.
Tommie said she has shared several marketing ideas since joining the board and hopes her contributions will make a difference in the organization. She would also like to host a fundraising gala for fellows at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in the future to bring more attention to NACF.
“I’m an outside-of-the-box thinker,” Tommie said. “I’m excited that I get to combine my worlds. I’m pleased to volunteer to make a difference in this way through art and culture.”
The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation call for entries for the annual NACF National Artist Fellowship is open now through March 21. Eligibility to apply is for artists who are enrolled as a Native citizen among any of the federally or state recognized Native Nations in the borders of the U.S. or Alaska Native Corporations or with documentation of Native Hawaiian ancestry. To apply or view any previous National Artist Fellowship profiles, visit the NACF website at http://www.NativeArtsAndCultures.org/.