Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Decolonial Dream Lab

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One-line solution summary:

A Native feminist beadwork studio and gallery that centers the intergenerational transmission of creative/cultural knowledges and practices.

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Pitch your solution.

Despite the fact that Los Angeles County is home to more American Indians than any other county in the U.S., it severely lacks creative and cultural spaces and programming for Native peoples. Only 1% of county arts funding is dedicated to Native communities. Decolonial Dream Lab will be a Native feminist beadwork studio and gallery that centers the intergenerational transmission of creative and cultural knowledges and practices through mentorship, beading workshops/circles, programming, and exhibitions.  Our model of mentorship and creative/cultural education will (re)create traditional kinship practices, foster creative skill and artistic development, increase economic self-sufficiency, and provide a physical space for the creative output of Native artists in Los Angeles. As beadwork grows in popularity, we will use that momentum to help participants brand and market themselves. This effort will also foster community health, wellness, and healing through traditional arts and creative practices.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Despite the fact that Los Angeles County is home to more American Indians than any other county in the U.S., it severely lacks creative & cultural spaces and programming for Native peoples.  For example, the Los Angeles Arts Commission, which funds 364 nonprofit arts organizations through a two-year $9 million grant program, runs the largest arts internship program in the country, coordinates the LA County Arts Education Collective, manages the County’s civic art policy, and produces free community programs, allocates less than 1% of its resources to Native communities and/or projects.  This lack of support for arts and cultural programs produces many levels of isolation that negatively impacts the mental health of Native communities. In Los Angeles, there exist community hubs such as Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Little Armenia, etc but Native folks are scattered throughout 4,753 square miles further isolating community members. 

Furthermore, in our experiences mentoring and creating kinship relations with Native youth, we have found that there is a heightened lack of opportunity for Native womxn, queer, and non-binary peoples to come together to build relationships, free from the pressures of patriarchy and colonialism.


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What is your solution?

Beadwork is an ancestral technology that Native communities have employed in a variety of contexts: to document and communicate stories, landscapes, events, and worldviews; to express and articulate roles and responsibilities within communities; to establish economic independence; and in the service of healing and wellness.  Understood as a relative by many Native peoples, beads (and beadwork) are a living archive who have much to teach us about the world we live in and the role we play in it (patience, balance, collaboration, intergenerational relationships, etc.). In the contemporary moment, there has been a resurgence in employing beadwork technologies to articulate Indigenous dreams, desires, experiences, and futurities.

Decolonial Dream Lab will be a Native feminist beadwork studio and gallery that centers the intergenerational transmission of creative and cultural knowledges and practices through mentorship, beading workshops/circles, programming, and exhibitions.  Our model of mentorship and creative/cultural education will (re)create traditional kinship practices, foster creative skill and artistic development, increase economic self-sufficiency, and provide a physical space for the creative output of Native artists in Los Angeles. This effort will also foster community health, wellness, and healing through traditional arts and creative practices.

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Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit?

Decolonial Dream Lab (DDL) includes Indigenous womxn situated and engaged in a variety of contexts: artists, scholars, activists, service-providers, teachers, students, youth, adults, elders, children, etc.  Rooted in Los Angeles, individual members of the Decolonial Dream Lab represent a variety of tribal and Indigenous identities.  Likewise, DDL serves an extremely diverse array of Native communities. For example, Los Angeles County, where the project will take place, is home to the largest population of Native peoples in the United States. Indigenous communities within Los Angeles include (at minimum): California Indian peoples such as the Acjachemen, Chumash, Tongva, and the Tataviam; “urban” Indian peoples who have been relocated from Native nations across the United States; and diasporic Indigenous communities that have migrated from occupied territories outside of the United States.  Finally, DDL privileges the participation of Indigenous womxn, queer, and non-binary peoples.  However, it also welcomes participation and engagement with allies.

Previously, we have had the opportunity to develop multiple beading circles with Indigenous folks within Los Angeles.  From these circles, we have identified two distinct needs: a lack of space for gathering and artistic development/mentorship opportunities for Indigenous womxn, queer, and non-binary relatives.

Decolonial Dream Lab (DDL) proposes to provide a much needed physical space for convening and become a cultural creative hub by connecting participants to Elders and nationally recognized beadwork artists and co-designing programs such as bead-making workshops and exhibitions to nurture Native artists, rebuild intergenerational circles, and support entrepreneurship.  It will center the ongoing participation, concerns and needs of Native womxn, queer, and non-binary relatives.

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Which dimension of the Fellowship does your solution most closely address?

Support language and cultural revitalization, quality K-12 education, and support for first-generation college students
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Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Fellowship and your selected dimension.

Through academic and cultural spaces we’ve been able to engage with first-generation college-students and young Native womxn, queer, and non-binary relatives and develop a community of Native peoples using beadwork as a decolonial practice. DDL proposes to address two needs, a lack of gathering spaces and artistic-development/mentorship for our young relatives by connecting participants to Elders and acclaimed beadwork artists, and co-designing workshops and exhibitions that nurture, rebuild intergenerational-circles, and support entrepreneurship. By blending cultural practices with pop/fine art production we create space for participants to learn these ancestral technologies and envision and practice self-determination, sustainability, health and wellness.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Los Angeles, CA, USA
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
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Who is the primary delegate for your solution?

Kimberly Robertson

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Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your primary delegate.

Muscogee (Creek)

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Is your primary delegate a member of the community in which your project is based?

Yes

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

Creating beadwork and the practice of gathering together to create and pass on teachings is an ancestral practice that has been disrupted by colonization, displacement and other violences. Recreating these circles and blending them with pop art and contemporary themes is a unique approach to this cultural art form. In recent years High Fashion Beadwork has even highlighted in magazines such as Vogue. Using this practice to create a mentorship and entrepreneurial program is not only unique to Los Angeles but to the country as well. By connecting this initial project to a vast network of beading artists across all of North America ensures that this project is sustainable through in-person marketplace and online sales. This approach alone can be significant especially when there’s a physical space (which this proposal provides) to serve as a hub but using these gatherings to also address mental health and wellness issues brought on by trauma. Decolonial Dream Lab believes in art as a form of healing and we also infuse our workshops with these frameworks by talking about and envisioning a world free from gendered-violence, patriarchy and colonialism.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • LGBTQ+
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 3. Good Health and Well-Being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
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In which state(s) do you currently operate?

  • California
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In which state(s) will you be operating within the next year?

  • California
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

Currently serving: 30

Projected to serve in 1 year: 60-75

Five year projection: 300 - 400

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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Decolonial Dream Lab hopes to have achieved 3 things; 

1. Develop a sustainable practice and model by evaluating what was learned from year 1 and make adjustments to better serve and support our folks while ensuring that the space is best used to support gathering, presenting art, and earned income strategies, respectively. 

2. Codify this model so that it can serve as a template for other communities to adapt as needed, impacting more people by producing curriculums and lesson plans, etc.

3. Ensure that we develop a pathway for youth by mentoring them and making space for future hires, etc.

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

Lack of Resources and Gathering Spaces

Despite the fact that Los Angeles County is home to more American Indians than any other county in the U.S., it severely lacks creative & cultural spaces and programming for Native peoples.  For example, the Los Angeles Arts Commission, which funds 364 nonprofit arts organizations through a two-year $9 million grant program, runs the largest arts internship program in the country, coordinates the LA County Arts Education Collective, manages the County’s civic art policy, and produces free community programs, allocates less than 1% of its resources to Native communities and/or projects.


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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

Funding

Decolonial Dream Lab has partnered with various entities such as Meztli Projects, the Indigenous Circle of Wellness and the Tataviam Band of Fernandeño Indians, among others to advocate for funding to support Native/Indigenous youth. As of July 2020 this has resulted in over $150,000 in funding for programs (Feb '20 - June '21) and we are in the final round of applicants with the California Arts Council's Innovations + Intersections program ($277,000 over 3 years, Nov '20 - Oct '23) is rooted in the California Arts Council’s (CAC) understanding that the arts can provide innovative strategies to respond to society’s most pressing opportunities and concerns. The CAC has created this pilot grant category to support innovative projects that use arts and culture-based approaches to respond to systemic issues that affect Californians.

We will continue these partnerships to help increase funding for Native communities.

Gathering Space

In the immediate time we have partnered with youth serving organizations such as Legacy LA and the Indigenous Circle of Wellness to use their premises to house programs. If awarded this grant, we will be able to secure a more sustainable and permanent location.

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Not registered as any organization
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How many people work on your solution team?

Decolonial Dream Lab currently primarily operates on volunteer labor.  When we facilitate beading circles, we contract our labor with other organizations.  We have two lead bead artists, and two assistant bead artists.

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How many years have you worked on your solution?

Kimberly has been beading for roughly a decade and has been facilitating beading circles for the last two years.

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Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Decolonial Dream Lab (DDL) includes Indigenous women situated and engaged in a variety of contexts: artists, scholars, activists, service-providers, teachers, students, youth, adults, elders, children, etc.  Rooted in Los Angeles, individual members of the Decolonial Dream Lab represent a variety of tribal and Indigenous identities.  Finally, DDL privileges the participation of Indigenous women, girls, and women-identified peoples.  However, it also welcomes participation and engagement with allies.

Kimberly Robertson (Mvskoke) is an artivist, scholar, teacher, and mother who works diligently to employ Native feminist theories, practices, and methodologies in her hustle to fulfill the dreams of her ancestors and to build a world in which her daughters can thrive. She earned an MA in American Indian Studies and a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012.  She is an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.  Her scholarship centers Indigenous feminisms and focuses on Indigenous resistance to violence against Native women. Robertson’s creative practices currently include screen printing, collage, beadwork, installation art, and zine-making.  Her work centers the ideas and practices of ceremony, storytelling, intersecting subjectivities, dislocation, decolonization, and Indigenous futurities. Robertson is also an active member of the Los Angeles Indian community and has served a variety of Indigenous-led organizations.

Kimberly is also a former small-business owner who successfully sold her acclaimed-line of greeting cards to a national retailer and currently produces beadwork that has been worn in high profile events such as the Oscars.

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What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

Indigenous Circle of Wellness

Meztli Projects

Tataviam Band of Fernandeño Mission Indians

Legacy LA

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

What is your path to financial sustainability?

Decolonial Dream Lab has partnered with various entities such as Meztli Projects, the Indigenous Circle of Wellness and the Tataviam Band of Fernandeño Indians, among others to advocate for funding to support Native/Indigenous youth. As of July 2020 this has resulted in over $150,000 in funding for programs (Feb '20 - June '21) and we are in the final round of applicants with the California Arts Council's Innovations + Intersections program ($277,000 over 3 years, Nov '20 - Oct '23) is rooted in the California Arts Council’s (CAC) understanding that the arts can provide innovative strategies to respond to society’s most pressing opportunities and concerns. The CAC has created this pilot grant category to support innovative projects that use arts and culture-based approaches to respond to systemic issues that affect Californians.

In addition, exhibitions and online sales will help generate income but being that Los Angeles County does not have a Native-focused store offering beads and beading supplies this is also a key strategy to building a sustainable space.

As per the space, it will be offered as an income earning rental to other entities for programming or one events.

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What are your estimated expenses for 2020?

$10,000

1
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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Why are you applying to Solve?

One percent of all funds for arts in Los Angeles County is directed toward Native communities. I want to change that and although we have had some success accessing funds from other funding opportunities such as the County Probation Department, there is still a huge need for this trend to change. Meanwhile opportunities like Solve are one we have to seek out and apply to and we appreciate that this grant is specifically prioritizing Native-led efforts.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business model
  • Funding and revenue model
  • Legal or regulatory matters
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Solution Team

  • Kimberly Robertson Project Director, Decolonial Dream Lab
 
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