The Common Ground program is inclusive, and therefore encourages American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian composers, performers, and sound artists working in diverse genres/mediums to apply. Artists are encouraged to take risks in their creative endeavors. Common Ground is designed to fill the gap in funding for artists who are particularly interested in creating work without the burden of artistic compromise. Common Ground aims to give timely aid to those American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian musicians who are strongly dedicated to their art, who show artistic merit, and who propose an excellent project. We wish to award grants to varied artists from the many genres of music represented in Indian Country, and from diverse American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian cultures.

We are pleased to announce our NEW funding guidelines. Individual awards will now range from $500 to $5,000.

For more details, download the Common Ground Grant Overview & Guidelines: Common Ground Guidelines 2012 PDF  Final Report Form CG 2012

Indigenous Music and Movies in the Park Series – Free Family Event – Bring a lawn chair or blanket, pack a picnic basket, bring a date, bring your kids, and take in the view of Minneapolis’ downtown skyline as you enjoy Indigenous Music and Movies at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park. Concerts begin at 7 p.m.; movies begin at dusk.

Indigenous musicians, artists, filmmakers, producers and actors will be showcased this summer in a four-part music and movies series at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park in Minneapolis. The series is hosted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Migizi Communications, First Nations Composer Initiative, and Independent Indigenous Film & Media.

Musical performances will feature local and national American Indian musicians.

“Indigenous Music and Movies in the Park” series is a celebration of Us; this American Indian community right here in the Twin Cities and it is a way to connect our voices both locally and nationally through music and movies produced by us for us and of course the larger communities outside of our own is definitely invited to enjoy and participate with us”! This is a FREE Family Event so Please do Invite your friends and family to enjoy Indigenous Music and Movies in the park”! Jewell Arcoren – FNCI Program Director.

The series offers the opportunity to catch Indigenous films that have been shown at national and international film festivals. “Because of the support of organizations like the Sundance Institute, Intertribal Productions and others, there has been a real flourishing of high quality Native cinema in the past few years, much of it entirely in Indigenous languages.” Says John Gwinn of Migizi Communications, the series’ film curator.

Emceeing the event this year will be American Indian director and producer and film curator: Missy Whiteman of Independent Indigenous Film & Media – “It is important that we all come together as community to support our talented Indigenous musicians, performers and filmmakers. It is even more important that we share their songs and stories with the world and Indigenous Music and Movies in The Park series is a wonderful opportunity to do just that.” Missy Whiteman.

The music and movie series will take place on the banks of the Mississippi River and highlight the St. Anthony Falls area which was and is sacred to the Dakota. The Dakota had a variety of names for St. Anthony Falls including “O-Wa-Mni” (whirlpool) or “Ha-Ha Tanka” (waterfall). When Father Louis Hennepin saw the falls in 1680 he renamed them in honor of his patron saint, Anthony of Padua. The falls is the only water fall on the entire length of the Mississippi River and served as the catalyst for the development of Minneapolis.

Download Indigenous Music and Movies poster.

Since it’s inception in 2004, The American Composers Forum’s First Nations Composer Initiative (FNCI) has established an infrastructure for support of traditional and contemporary music by American Indian composers and musicians nationwide… It is also a re-granting program, having announced its third round of grant activity in January of this year, (application deadline April 1, 2008) with preparations being made to announce a fourth round of grants awards for musical projects throughout North America. (

FNCI has also established a new and highly successful music education program, the Composer Apprentice National Outreach Endeavor (CANOE).The overall goal of the CANOE program is to encourage American Indian high school students to compose and share their own music. Participating students are taught the composition and improvisation skills needed to express themselves confidently through music. They experienced and participated in the following activities:

  • Composed music for various musical instruments and the human voice.
  • Learned about music notation and orchestration.
  • Critiqued and analyzed their work and the work of others.
  • Heard about the business aspects of composing professionally.
  • Heard their music performed for an audience.

FNCI offered the program to American Indian students around the country. With a grant from the NEA, local Composer Brent Michael Davids, (Mohican) composer and music educator at the Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College, Elizabeth Jaakola (Anishinaabe) and Composer, Raven Chacon (Dine) provided composition training in three areas: Minneapolis, Cloquet, MN; and Orange County in Los Angeles.

CANOE put a Native composer in the classroom once a week over the course of three semesters in the 2007-08 school years. Students in the program needed very little background in music in order to participate, but many did. The first semester was weekly lessons in orchestration for like instruments –in this case strings. The semester ended with a public concert of the works written by the students and performed by a professional ensemble. In the third semester, Native writers were brought in to each site to assist the composers as they taught choral arranging, which also culminated in a concert at the end of the semester. At the Minneapolis concert professional singers performed student works. The Los Angeles and Fond du Lac concerts were performed by a mix of Non-Native professional musicians and fellow student musicians and singers.

In this rich musical environment CANOE stimulated new avenues for Native student composers that enriched both Indian and non-Indian communities through public visibility and association. As more than one parent put it; “I felt it provided my child new leadership skills and that it also provided the non-Native participants invaluable exposure to Native American culture which was enriching.”

CANOE addresses a need for our Native youth. Those 100 plus students who have participated in CANOE projects to date have been transformed. Many of our youth are very musically talented, yet for reasons apparent and not so apparent, they are not participating in mainstream music programs. FNCI has begun to address this concern at the institutional level. A promotional DVD of film footage from all three sites will be aired in various media outlets in order to encourage our future generations of Native composers, musicians and performers.

FNCI is managed by ACF staff members Jewell Arcoren (Sisseton/Sicangu).

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