Artist Leadership Program for Museums and Cultural Arts Organizations - The National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program (ALP)


May 04, 2015

Opportunity Cover Image - Artist Leadership Program for Museums and Cultural Arts Organizations - The National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program (ALP)


The Artist Leadership Program (ALP) for Museums and Cultural Arts Organizations invites local museums, arts organizations, and cultural institutions in the United States and Canada to collaborate with the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Smithsonian Institution (SI):

  • To identify local and regional Native artists well qualified to research Native cultural objects in museums and other collections in the region; document their research; receive training in arts management, marketing and career strategies, and business and leadership skills; and network at the local institutional level.
  • Then to support the artists empowered with new artistic skills and techniques as they share—in their home communities or on-site at the museum or cultural arts organization—the value of Native knowledge through art. Organizations do so by hosting a Youth Public Art Project or Artist’s Community Workshop.

This program aims to rebuild cultural self-confidence, enable local indigenous artists to think more broadly about themselves and their art, and conduct local community art projects that inspire and reflect artistic diversity.

The program’s primary objectives for local museums and cultural arts organizations are to engage indigenous artists in focusing on artistic process through research in local collections, create opportunities for local artists to meet and consult with staff members, host public art programs that present indigenous artists as voices of authority on their art, and break down stereotypes about Indigenous art.

The program’s secondary objectives include to mentor young artists in collaboration with elders; convene local artists for networking and to share ideas and resources; affirm that Indigenous arts hold value and knowledge; and through indigenous arts, offer communities a means for healing and new ways to exchange cultural information.

Two museums/cultural arts organizations will be selected each year.


Applications must be submitted using the ALP online application by 5 PM eastern time, Monday, May 4, 2015. Only complete applications received by the deadline will be considered.

Each award recipient will be expected to be in Washington, D.C., November 30 through December 4, 2015.


  • Applicants must be arts organizations, museums, and/or cultural institutions with sound fiscal management, including established methods for accepting cash receipts and making disbursements, documenting and reconciling income statements, and documenting and reconciling payments. Applicants must have been in operation for at least five fiscal years and be nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations committed to serving the indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.
  • Applicants must demonstrate access to Native cultural materials supporting local Native artists; have staff to provide financial and logistical support for local Native artists; have access to local arts-management professional trainers, training facilities, and computer equipment; and have access to local video professionals.
  • Applicants must be able to send at least one mid-career Native staff person or Native consultant to travel to Washington, D.C., in November-December 2015 to meet with NMAI staff and tour NMAI facilities. Upon proper invoicing, the applicant will be provided with a reasonable reimbursement for travel expenses, including airfare, airport transfers and baggage fees, lodging, and per diem. One additional staff member may attend the Washington program at the expense of each selected organization.
  • Applicants must be able to collaborate with local security agencies to ensure that security background checks are successfully completed on individuals directly involved with youth.
  • If selected, applicants must provide a DUNS number.
  • Applicants must be in good standing with U.S. Government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and able to register in the System for Award Management (SAM), a database of individuals and companies that do contractual business with federal agencies. Registration in SAM is necessary to ensure payment of contractor invoices.
  • Applicants must be able to provide a certificate of liability insurance from their insurance carrier in the amount of $1 million to cover general liability, automobile liability, and worker’s compensation and employer’s liability to cover the applicant’s staff and/or consultant while on SI property.


The Washington Visit

Each of the two organizations selected will send one mid-career Native staff person or Native consultant to visit the NMAI Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland, and the NMAI on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to meet with NMAI staff in specialties such as collections, registration, conservation, photo services, photo and paper archives, media archives, library, publications, public affairs, administration, and media production, and to receive an overview of museum management, professional development, and video oversight and direction. Up to one additional staff member is invited at the expense of the selected organization.

Staff/consultants taking part in the Artist Leadership Program for Museums and Cultural Arts Organizations Individual Artists will also be able to meet with participants in the Artist Leadership Program for Individual Artists and will be invited to join them for arts management training.

Each selected organization will provide a PowerPoint presentation to NMAI staff during the Washington visit. This PowerPoint presentation should provide information about the location of the organization, goals and objectives of the institution, outreach capacity, reasons for applying to the ALP, potential outcomes, and the meaning of the ALP experience in Washington, D.C., for the organizations staff/consultant.

NMAI will provide a detailed itinerary prior to the staff member’s arrival, give an orientation, and offer administrative assistance for presentations to museum staff.

Call for Artists

Each selected organization will next present a Call for Artists. Upon review of the regional and local artists who respond, the organization will host a minimum of four regional Native artists, both contemporary and traditional, to perform the following activities:

  • Conduct research in the collections of the host organization and other local museum institutions to gain a higher understanding of the process of their art.
  • Meet with the host organization’s staff.
  • Visit other galleries in the area.
  • Conduct art talks or other public program activities at the host organization, and/or other local museums or galleries.
  • Participate in arts-management training.

The artists selected for the program will receive assistance from the host organization in making appointments for training and museum research visits. While at the host organization’s site, artists will also be provided professional training services that may include grant-writing; creating PowerPoint presentations and web portfolios; identifying marketing and career strategies; and developing business and leadership skills. Training sessions are to be community based at the host organization’s site and may include up to 15 participants, including the selected artists.

Each host organization will provide a detailed itinerary prior to the artists’ arrival, give an orientation, and offer administrative assistance for presentations to museum staff. Local travel and hotel lodging costs associated with the trip will be reimbursed to each artist by the organization. Organizations are to provide the artists with funds for travel, artist fees or honoraria, supplies/materials, and per diem. Organizations are strongly encouraged to seek outside financial or in-kind resources to help support program goals and objectives.

Artists’ Community Projects

The next part of the program enables the selected organization to support each artist, on-site at the cultural institution or as he or she returns home, to facilitate a community project sharing the knowledge learned from the experience and from research conducted at the host organization or other institutions in the region. The artists’ community projects should be completed within six months following the organization site visit.

Organizations are encouraged to engage community members and leverage local resources to facilitate community projects in the arts for local artists and young people.

Youth Public Art

After visiting the host organization, each artist who chooses Youth Public Art Project on-site or in his or her community will identify a local youth group to design, develop, and complete a public art project that will result in a finished artwork—such as a sculpture, mural, theatrical production, musical performance, or video—that will serve the local public. The goals of the Youth Public Art Project include offering an opportunity for program participants to mentor young artists in collaboration with elders, sharing ideas and resources and exemplifying the values and knowledge held by local Native artists while offering the community a means for healing and for sustaining cultural information.

Suggested themes for Youth Public Art Projects include youth identity, suicide awareness, substance abuse, bullying, gangs, racially insensitive mascots, language revitalization, sustainable environments, or developing an exhibition for the organization. Each artist will provide ten art or production lessons to at least five community youth during the project.

Artist’s Community Workshop

After visiting the host organization, each artist who chooses to do an Artist’s Community Workshop will plan and manage a free workshop for a community of artists to share knowledge and demonstrate skills gained from collections research at the selected organization. Each artist will select the workshop location, create the agenda and syllabus, obtain materials, and facilitate advertising and registration. Each workshop should provide one to three days of instruction to at least ten community members interested in learning artistic skills.

Suggested themes for workshops include skills that the artist has mastered, new techniques learned as a result of the collections research visit, or new or revised cultural art techniques in support of an exhibition in development at the selected organization affirming that indigenous arts hold value and knowledge.

Video Documentation

Each selected organization is asked to identify a local video contractor to document the staff visit to Washington, D.C., and the artists’ community projects; interview individuals key to the community projects; and produce a video—seven minutes or less in length—documenting the community projects. Completing the video usually includes taking part in two rounds of review and revision, securing video participants’ signed release forms, acquiring music rights and permissions, and closed-captioning the final approved video. Approved videos will be posted on the NMAI YouTube channel.

The purpose of this video is to share with a larger audience the meaning of the staff visit to Washington, D.C.; the setting and location of the host organization; and the impact of the community projects. Examples of videos by artists and organizations who took part in the NMAI Artist Leadership Program in earlier years are viewable here.

Eligible Countries
Host Country
Publish Date
March 29, 2015
Link To Original