Uplifting our Constellations Fellows and Partners

The Center for Cultural Power
September 07, 2023

In April 2023, we had the distinct pleasure of introducing ten Artist Disruptors and traditional and tradition-based Culture Bearers who are a part of our 18-month Constellations Culture Change Fund & Initiative Fellowship, funded in part by the California Arts Council. Now, we are excited to share their inspiring intersectional projects with you, in the lead up to Climate Week NYC, where activism and solidarity across Black, Brown and Indigenous communities to stop fossil fuels and extractive policies are galvanized.  We hope you’ll follow each of them and their offerings throughout the fellowship. Their projects focus on strengthening and revitalizing cultural traditions which are essential to supporting communities who protect the environment and advance climate-centered restoration and action. Each fellow receives a full-time annual salary, with benefits from The Center for Cultural Power, and is collaborating with  a partner organization to create place-based projects and deepen  cultural practices that build narrative power in their communities. 

Playwriting to Preserve Hmong Oral Storytelling Traditions

Katie Ka Vang (she/they)

Katie is a Hmong American playwright and writer of scripts based in St. Paul, Minnesota who is partnering with Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center, to preserve and promote stories about and from the Hmong diaspora perspective. Her project, she shared, “will be rooted in community-driven theater that highlights and amplifies the fact that Saint Paul’s 7th Street is a major cultural corridor and an asset to the Twin Cities, Minnesota.” Katie believes in the power of representation and will uplift stories about the 7th Street/Intertribal Cultural Corridor by telling their dynamic stories on stage. She’ll work with a group of local BIPOC writers to craft the stories. 

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Hanuana Mau - Preserving Traditional Hawaiian Voyaging  

A. Keala Kahuanui (she/her)

Keala is a Waimea, Hawai’i island based educator, crew member and cook onHawaiian voyaging canoes. In collaboration with Nā Kālai Waʻa, her project, Hanuana Mau, will restore and sustain native foods as an integral part of the Native Hawaiian diet, and empower Native Hawaiians to grow their own food. The project focuses on three inter-island sails that provide an opportunity for the community to heal and be able to feed themselves by growing, preparing, sharing, and preserving food provisions for their voyages as well as their homes.

Keala said participation in the fellowship helped “to expand our project beyond preserving voyaging provisions for our wa’a Makali’i,” and added that the project has already “strengthened educators in their professional development, expanded healthy meals for expecting mothers and families, provided diet-specific meals for elders, and developed a rigorous, relative school curriculum.”

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Nuestra Delta Mágica 

Nansi Guevara (she/her)

As a Textile-based rasquache artist, illustrator & teacher based in Brownsville, Texas, Nansi is working with the independent multimedia platform, Trucha, to create Nuestra Delta Mágica – a public exhibition, an educational materials series, and local convivos (community gatherings with food and local traditions) in The Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. 

"The exhibition is focused on shifting harmful border narratives from “no hay nada aqui”, or “there is nothing here", to narratives that affirm the beauty, abundance, and value of the communities and traditions based in the region. The exhibition examines the untold history and impact of land exploitation, highlights border artists working in response to environmental colonization, and engages the community to collectively redefine identities as fronteriza/o/xs." 

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Technology for Indigenous Resilience 

Leonard Bruce (he/him)

Leonard Bruce is a member of the Gila River Indian Community with an aim to increase indigenous social and economic mobility and find ways that Indigenous peoples can leverage technology to build resilience. He will be working with Three Precious Miracles to develop a line of 3D models and informational booklets inspired by O’odham history and culture to help teach and connect youth to their past. “Working on this project at the intersection of technology and local history is something I always knew I was going to do,” Leonard said, “but through this fellowship, I feel I have the support and resources to make it amazing.”

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Storytelling and Indigenous Food Systems

Mariah Gladstone (she/they)

Mariah is a Culture Bearer residing on the Blackfeet Nation on the Rocky Mountain front. Throughout the fellowship, she is working with the organization, FAST Blackfeet, to reconnect Indigenous people with the stories of Native food systems. 

With a commitment to preserving traditional Indigenous food knowledge, Mariah will use her video platform to create material that can shift perceptions and tell positive stories. “I want to engage with more storytelling about traditional foods and their benefits. I hope to help change the foods that come to mind when people think of Native American foods and build communities that remember the abundance of our cultures, people, and ecosystems.”

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The Praise House Project 

Charmaine Minniefield (she/her) 

While splitting her time between Atlanta and The Gambia, Charmaine uses public art installations to keep African-American traditions alive. Her organization, The New Freedom Project is partnering with The Historic Development Corporation to continue The Praise House, a narrative change project based at multiple sites throughout Atlanta. “Each Praise House is a small wooden structure with a fully immersive digital projection installation of a Ring Shout, created from archives and/or footage collected from the community in which it resides, with a sound installation emanating from within, inviting gatherings in safe spaces, like praise houses once before.” Preserving African-American heritage, culture and history through artistic experiences is just the beginning. Next summer, The Praise House will move to the site of the 1906 Race Massacre in South Atlanta to record oral histories, create a community archive, and promote community reinvestment for affordable housing that would be offered to artists and others dedicated to uplifting their community’s history. 

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Indigenous Land Markers in the Bay Area 

Cece Carpio (she/her)

Based on Ohlone land in the Bay Area, Cece paints art installations using acrylic, ink and aerosol to tell narratives of immigration, ancestry, collective movements, and resilience. During the fellowship, Cece is working with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, to create physical and visual markers to acknowledge the ancestral land in the Bay Area that has been rematriated to Indigenous communities. “This work is to heal and transform the legacies of colonization, genocide, and patriarchy, and to do the work our ancestors and future generations are calling us to do,” she says. “Through research, community workshops, and multimedia public art installations, these visual markers are to strengthen the fight for the land back movement, for land return, restoration, and rematriation.”

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Bridging The Past & Present Through Pacific Island Community Art

JP / Jason Pereira (he/him)

Jason is a graphic artist and muralist who serves the Pacific Islander community through visual arts. Currently residing in Orange County, California, Jason is of Samoan and Portuguese ancestry.  His project uplifts the indigenous stories of Pacific Islanders, in partnership with the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum (PIEAM)

He aims to create art that experiments with new methods, mediums, and stories that connect to Samoan and Pacific Island culture in order to bridge the past and present and provide reference points for future generations of artists. A series of interconnected murals will also be created through imagery of a rainbow with patterns and messages from local community members. In addition, Jason plans to host art workshops and programming as an opportunity for the Pacific Islander community to create together, learn together, be inspired by their culture, and build intergenerational relationships. 

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Tierra Mia

Adam Perez (they/he)

As an award-winning independent photographer and filmmaker, based in Exeter, CA, Adam’s work centers on intimate stories that reveal the nuances of race, gender, identity, and culture. During the fellowship, they will be working with The Central Valley Empowerment Alliance to “inspire others in the community to demand and be the radical change needed to create fundamental change.” The exhibition Adam is creating is titled Tierra Mia and honors and celebrates farmworker communities, who were devastated by the pandemic. It also spotlights stories of community members stepping into positions of power, often for the first time in their lives. “We believe this narrative of self-determination is vital to create a shift from deeply held white supremacy systems present in the Central Valley.” During their time in the Constellations Fellowship, Adam plans to take steps towards securing a long-term shared art studio space that could help revitalize their community.

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A Fresh Perspective on “Healthy Living” for Indigenous Los Angeles

Amy Stretten (she/they) 

Amy Stretten, aka The Chief of Style, is a bilingual, Chickahominy, Black/Indigenous, queer Femme, journalist, and creative entrepreneur. She’s known for cultural fashion content which “encourages people of all shapes and sizes to love themselves and their bodies exactly as they are.” With support from partner United American Indian Involvement (UAII), Amy is creating a multimedia workshop that explores what healthy living can look like for Indigenous people, specifically Urban Indians living in her local community of Los Angeles. The workshop will supplement UAII’s environment programming at their new residential housing program which offers apartment rental opportunities for the Native community. Amy will incorporate interviews, a cultural knowledge exchange, and traditional cooking and fitness tutorials. Amy’s hope is that through the workshop, “Native American community members will realize their personal power to take charge of their health for their future and for their community,” 

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Each of the fellows and their projects align with our deep narratives that define the core underlying beliefs of the future we want and need. As an activist-led fund and initiative rooted in movements and organizing, this fellowship promotes Constellations Culture Change Fund & Initiative’s belief in redistributing resources that have been stolen from our Indigenous and ancestral communities. 

We encourage you to subscribe to our Constellations Newsletter to stay informed about the great work being done by our network of fellows, Artist Disruptors, and Culture Bearers. 

Images photographed by Noemi A. Gonzalez with assistance from Ash Ponders and Caitlin O'Hara.