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Anishinaabe Art Festival in Bemidji This Weekend!

Cultivating connections and entrepreneurial promise thru Indigenous arts and culture

...when we started the entrepreneur program back in 2012, a large majority of our entrepreneurs were artists. I was amazed at how many artists exist here on the Red Lake Nation. We had over 100 artists come in … So in working with that, I noticed that Leech Lake and other reservations had the same thing. They had all of these beautiful artists that were creating these beautiful pieces, and it wasn't well known out there...we started talking with Leech Lake, White Earth, even the city of Bemidji, and… we all started saying we need to help these artists expand, grow their businesses, reach a better, stronger market. And so the art festival was born. – Sharon James, Executive Director, 4 Directions Development

The Anishinaabe Arts Festival this weekend in Bemidji celebrates Indigenous artists in a wide array of mediums… painters, dancers, quill workers, musicians, culinary artists, and fashion designers, just to name a few…The two day event includes a multi-designer style show, traditional foods, storytelling, workshops, and demonstrations including birchbark basketry, beading, hand drum making among several others...

Sharon James, Executive Director of 4 Directions Development, joined the morning show to talk about the event, how 4 Directions supports entrepreneurs, and how she hopes the festival cultivates connections while growing native businesses.

…we were all shooting for the same goal… that we need to promote our artists. We need to get them out in the world. It's not only Southwestern art that is very sought after, but The Woodlands Anishinaabe artwork is also very beautiful, very highly sought after… those artists are so quiet about themselves… they're not promoted as strongly as they could be. So that's what we're trying to do with this, is to promote those artists and showcase them so that they can reach a larger market …

I love working with indigenous people, getting them into the business world. Even when I was young, I would drive around with my parents and be looking at these empty vacant buildings or empty vacant lot and be dreaming of what could go there. And then as I was looking at the business owners, I said, “Where are our people? How come we're not one of those business owners?” So ever since I was little, I wanted to help our people become those business owners. So helping these artists is just wonderful. It's their dream, it's their concept, it's their desires. And then we're just there to assist them to accomplish that dream well. – Sharon James, 4 Directions Development

The Anishinaabe Arts Festival will take place at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. The itinerary is below. For more detailed information visit

Friday July 22nd:

11am: Invocation and Welcome


Workshops: Quillwork, hand drum making, stone carving, and more

4:30 – 6:30pm: Traditional Flavors Tasting Tables

6:30pm: Fashion Show Seating

7-9pm: Fashion Show with Traditional Tea Bar

Saturday, July 23rd

9am: Vendor Booths Open

Quill work
Story Telling

11am-1pm: Traditional Flavors Tasking Tables

1-3pm: Stage Entertainment

Dance Styles
Other Performers: Sten Joddi, Annie Humphrey, Sampson Brothers, Doyle Turner

3-4pm: Children’s Art Session

4-5pm: Literary Arts

5-6pm: Closing Ceremony

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Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.