Red Can Graffiti Jam

ARTIST: Julie Garreau
ARTWORK/YEAR: Red Can Graffiti Jam (2009-15)
REGION: North America

Graffiti jams were designed to introduce graffiti as an art form, bringing together people who exemplify the contemporary graffiti art movement and how it has evolved since its inception a half century ago. In the case of RedCan, not only are artists showcasing a global movement, its relevance and how to be part of it, they’re connecting the graffiti world with the indigenous one, allowing Lakota artists to infuse graffiti with their own culture, identities and stories. RedCan provides meaningful, lasting inspiration to our young people, who seek to explore their identities, find their own unique voices, and express themselves in a positive, healthy way. It also offers offers an unprecedented opportunity for the Cheyenne River community to experience what has become the largest art movement in the history of humankind. Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) began RedCan Graffiti Jam as part of their work to provide indigenous youth with "access to a vibrant and secure future."

Each summer they bring internationally renowned artists to work with local youth on beautifying locations across the city. Rather than competitive, as is common in graffiti jams, RedCan is designed to connect artists with the community to foster meaningful, collaborative work. Artists attend orientation sessions on Lakota culture and discuss how to respectfully combine a graffiti aesthetic with Native beliefs. Beyond painting and beautification, the event includes healing circles, drumming, chanting, and other ceremonies. RedCan is an anchor that supports and advances CRYP’s year-round work, and is also garnering the pride and participation of local residents across ages. Every year, RedCan incorporates a Lakota Youth Traditional Dance Exhibition in CRYP’s free, public Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park. Visiting artists take turns teaching art workshops in the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park. These classes range from skateboard painting and printmaking to oil pastels and graffiti art. (Pictured is our lead artist and instructor, East Foster from Denver.) Young people are the focus: children share their Lakota culture in daily dance exhibitions, they participate in arts classes and workshops, and they enjoy painting alongside our guest and local artists—in the art park, and at mural sites around the Eagle Butte community.

Through RedCan, vibrant artworks are brought into everyday spaces on the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation, and share meaningful stories that both strengthen and uplift our community. In just three days, RedCan forges the bonds of community between guest artists, local artists, visitors, volunteers and Cheyenne River residents of all ages. It’s a powerful and unique experience that proves life-changing for everyone it touches.“The entire Cheyenne River community is excited for the return of RedCan,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “You can feel the energy as it gets closer. Graffiti and Lakota culture resonate with each other in profound ways, and this event provides a remarkable opportunity for cultural exchange and creative exploration— for our youth, our local artists, and our community in general. “Since we first hosted RedCan in 2015, however, we’ve also observed that it has a life-changing effect on everyone it touches,” she continued. “We saw how deeply our children and teens were affected, as they shared their stories and explored their own voices and identities. We witnessed the impact on our local artists and our guests, who worked so closely together over that intense three-day period. And we saw our entire community lift itself up through art.”

RedCan remains Indian Country’s first and only graffiti jam, and it is the signature event for CRYP’s new Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute. RedCan gives Cheyenne River’s young people, and the community at large, an unparalleled opportunity to experience the contemporary graffiti art movement, learn about different techniques and styles, and paint alongside master artists from across the country and even around the world. The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.

CRYP needs to cover all the costs associated with such a large undertaking, from painting supplies to meals and refreshments for participants and guests alike. Contributions can be provided to the RedCan fundraiser. All proceeds are used to purchase paint, artist supplies, food and beverages, and to help cover the artists’ travel expenses.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency