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Youth &Culture Nett Lake teens hone their multimedia storytelling skills Armed with digital cameras, video cameras, song files and notebooks, 30 young Band members set out this summer to find their voices, weaving stories of culture, geography and family.

Their creative efforts were part of a 10-day August workshop in Nett Lake led by Kristine Sorensen, the executive director of In Progress, a St. Paul-based organization that empowers young artists to develop their voices using the digital arts. In Progress began as a series of video and photography workshops geared for youth and offered by the Center for Arts Criticism. In 1999 it was officially founded as In Progress, a name that refers to the dynamic state of artists and humans, traveling, growing and continually deepening their understanding of one another.

storytelling isn’t well recognized or appreciated in the mainstream media. We adapt our teaching styles to match the cultural communities we work with.”

It’s important for young people to identify as artists, Sorensen said. It’s especially important that they recognize their Indian heritage as an asset to be celebrated artistically – not something to be stripped away in an attempt to conform.

The young artists hosted an exhibit and video screnning of their work at the Nett Lake Community Center on Nov. 17.

“That, I think, is pretty cool,” Sorensen said. “It’s nice because then there are no other strings attached. The community owns and shapes the program. It’s clear that the School Board really cares about the children.”

Kris Sorenson, Executive Director of In Progress, empowers and inspires young people to tell stories through digital arts.

In Progress operates primarily as a mobile organization. Its team members travel to various communities across Shawn Jensen’s art spoke of the the state so innocence and beauty of his infant they can niece. work with locals in the beauty and richness of their natural environments. “We try to work with young people who don’t have an easy venue, those who are underrepresented in mass media,” Sorensen said. “Culturally, Native Americans’ process for




“Those who might go on to be journalists or photographers or filmmakers, if they choose that path, they have a really strong core that can’t be shook,” Sorensen said. “They’ll go into mainstream institutions that may tell them that the way they see the world is wrong. They’re often asked to relinquish what they know to be true in how to tell a story. We try to develop that strong core so that no matter where they go, they’ll have that core.”

Nett Lake has a history of video production. Sorensen first worked with Bois Forte in 1987, when she taught Deanna Drift, Billie Isham Mason and Toni Wakemup. She recently bumped into Wakemup at a Twin Cities artistic program, and Wakemup recommended Sorensen to the Band. In Progress first came to Nett Lake through the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. Based on positive feedback from Band members, the Nett Lake School Board commissioned it, allocating $10,000 to host the 10-day workshop.

Follow-up training at the school and with individual artists is currently being funded by In Progress and the Minnesota State Arts Board in Education.

The young artists who gathered in August – ranging in age from 8 to 15 – had a blast creating video and picture stories set to music, Sorensen said. “They would’ve worked all night every night if they could have. You see them being very surprised at what they’re creating. They didn’t always know they had it in them.” The finished products are sophisticated and compelling. Many celebrate the beauty of Nett Lake. Others tell family stories. One project, called Determination, elicited a tribute to a teen’s grandmother. Completing a project – and receiving positive feedback on it – can be pivotal for a young person, Sorensen said. “When that happens, they begin to see opportunities.” She hopes the workshops provide a launching pad to greater exposure, including a national platform. Some of the artists have already contributed to prestigious art exhibits.

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Bois Forte News • December 2009 • Page 9

Winners of the Fall Bois Forte Police Department Men's Basketball Tournament at the Vermilion Wellness Center

Congratulations to Nett Lake Juniors Tiffany Skinaway and Parker Drift on their reign as 2009 Homecoming Queen and King for Orr High School. (Video cont. from page 8)

Sophia Lien, 16, a Band member from Nett Lake, enjoyed taking pictures on a high-quality camera, rather than her LG Shine cell phone. Her favorite shots are of the woods. Now she’s considering photography as a hobby and a career – and itching to buy a nice camera of her own. “I’m really happy that people liked my pictures,” she said.

Tiffany Skinaway, a 16year-old Nett Laker, had never shot video before the In Progress workshop. “I liked thinking about how it it’s going to turn out,” she said. “And I liked picking the Malcolm Hoaglund’s picture celebrates his skills as an artist and music too.” skater.



First place - Aries Ballenia's Team (upper left)

Second Place - Team Drift (above)

Third Place - unavailable for a photo

Fourth Place - Mark Drift's team (lower left)

Skinaway said she is considering a career as a professional videographer. The workshop helped her develop as an artist and a Native American. “It helped me recognize who I am.”

A paperback book of Determination is availale for $20 by ordering through the website Examples of the young artists’ work will be featured at the Jan. 28, 2001 State of the Band.

Savannah Parisiens video “I Am Anishinaabe” was just accepted into the Twin Cities Youth Media Festival on Nov. 21 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The festival features some of the best work being produced by youth in the state of Minnesota. Hopefully, it will be the first of many screenings for the young artists of Nett Lake. B O I S



Nett Lake Artists Featured in the Bois Forte News  

In Progress youth artists from Nett Lake Village were recently profiled in this exciting article publsihed by the Bois Forte News. It is we...