Native American art from Elk Soup Art Auction held in Spokane on Saturday / Photo by Matthew Kincanon (SpokaneFāVS)

Indigenous Nonprofit Art Auction in Spokane Gives Native Artists a Space to Sell Artwork

Indigenous Nonprofit Art Auction in Spokane Gives Native Artists a Space to Sell Artwork

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News Story by Matthew Kincanon

Elk Soup, a Native American-owned nonprofit, held a Native Art Auction on Saturday at Gonzaga University’s Cataldo Hall to support Indigenous artists while raising funds for the nonprofit.

Paintings, jewelry, baskets, flutes and other works of art were available for attendees to buy or bid on.

Jeff Ferguson, co-founder and executive director of Elk Soup, said there are not a lot of places where Native artists can sell their art without huge commissions. The event helps Native artists gain socio-economic independence so they can become entrepreneurs through their own artwork and become financially sustainable through their craftsmanship.

Empowering Native Families and Artists

Art for auction at Elk Soup Saturday at Gonzaga / Photo by Matthew Kincanon (SpokaneFāVS)

“Elk Soup’s mission is to empower Native American families on and off the reservation,” Ferguson said. “And so by doing events like this you can empower the whole families of the artists, because their work affects so many people.”

He added that art is healing in a lot of ways. It’s therapeutic for the artists who make it, and it’s healing for the people who buy the art they hang on their walls or the jewelry they wear.

Artists and vendors featured at the event included Olivia Evans, Stephanie Marchand, Ric Gendron, Dave Brown Eagle, Julie Ann Edwards, Sylvia Peasley, Emma Noyes, Shane Ridley-Stevens, Nancy Raymond, Colleen Millers, Jacob Johns and many others.

For Artists, an Escape

Angelena Campobasso, a vendor at the event who makes jewelry, said she loves doing events like the auction and meeting fellow artists and getting to know them. When it comes to making jewelry, she said it takes away stress and helps her escape. She always collects turquoise, beads and crystals and turns them into necklaces and other accessories. 

Several things she appreciated about the auction were that artists didn’t have to pay vending fees and where the proceeds of the auction go to; 90% of the proceeds will go to the artists, and 10% will go to the nonprofit.

For those who win the pieces in the silent auction and take them home, Ferguson said he wants them to know that the money spent helps the Native community, and it empowers people when they walk into someone’s home and see Native art hanging in there.

What’s Next?

Ferguson said the amount raised for the nonprofit will help cover costs of the auction and will be used for food sovereignty classes on how to make traditional root digging tools, hide scraping tools, knives, hunting safety, fishing and other classes.

“There’s a whole world of different types of art out there that they can hang in their homes and that really gives them a closer connection and a more intimate feel to our culture,” he said. 

Ferguson wants to make the auction an annual event at the university.

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