Candice Hopkins (Carcross/Tagish First Nation) has been named the Executive Director of the Forge Project, a new initiative launched in 2021 to support leaders in culture, education, food security, and land justice. Forge exists as a platform for people and organizations whose crucial work serves the social and cultural landscape of our shared communities through a fellowship program, a teaching farm developed in partnership with Sky High Farm, grants to community organizations, and a lending art collection.
Located in Upstate New York, on unceded, traditional, and ancestral lands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok, it operates out of a building designed by artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The resources of Forge support organizations in the Hudson Valley, and Indigenous peoples who were displaced by settler colonialism.
On August 2, 2021, Forge Project announced its new program, the Forge Project Fellowship, to support established and emerging Indigenous leaders in the land justice, education, and cultural fields with financial support and a residency at Forge Project. The four recipients are:
Chris T Cornelius (Oneida), is an architect, professor and founding principal of studio:indigenous, and designs spaces for Indigenous clients through the translation of Indigenous culture into architecture. His academic practice centers around the history of Indigenous design, visual thinking, and mapping.
Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians), is a visual artist and filmmaker working across video, photo, and text-based works. His interdisciplinary body of work examines the relationships between the history of place, indigeneity, and colonialism. His latest works engage with the complexity of language and geography.
Jasmine Neosh (Menominee), is a writer, student researcher, and advocate for environmental justice, Indigenous sovereignty, climate change education and culturally-informed, place-based sustainability. She is currently working on a field guide to restore knowledge loss surrounding food systems and native plants.
Brock Schreiber (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans), is a student and teacher of Mã’eekuneeweexthowãakun, as well as an author and Tribal Council Member. He is dedicated to reviving and restoring knowledge of the language through classes and potluck dinners, and is currently working to establish the next generation of teachers. He is the author of several children’s books, including three in the Mohican language. A Mohican language instructor, he is working to build speakers in the community.
Forge Project was founded by Becky Gochman, and is led by Executive Director Candice Hopkins (Carcross / Tagish First Nation), Director of Education Heather Bruegl (Oneida / Stockbridge-Munsee), and Facilitator Zach Feuer. Hopkins, an acclaimed curator and writer, is also Senior Curator of the Toronto Biennial of Art, a role she will continue to hold through the 2022 edition. Bruegl has also served as the Director of Cultural Affairs for the Stockbridge Munsee Community, and speaks on Indigenous history, public policy, and activism.
In addition to the fellowships, which are solely funded by Gochman, the initiative will offer educational programs aimed at fostering dialogue about decolonization. The Forge Project is also putting together a collection of works by Native American artists, of which it has amassed about one hundred to date, in an attempt to address disparities related to the representation of Indigenous artists.
“There’s a great imbalance between how works by Native artists are valued versus works by non-Native artists, and many Native artists don’t even have gallery representation,” noted Hopkins. “Part of what Forge can do through the collection is try to address that gap in value, make their work more public and give Native artists their due.”