Walt Pourier talking to Native youth at the Stronghold Society

Q&A with Artist Walt Pourier

In January 2013, Walt Pourier served as a Native Arts Artist-in-Residence at the Denver Art Museum. I didn’t work at the museum at that time, but since coming to Denver, I had heard nothing but positive feedback about the good work Walt was doing in the Native community, so I was very thankful when our digital committee asked me to follow up with Walt to find out what he is up to these days.

Getting to know Walt (from a safe distance of course), was a great experience. Meeting someone who is so committed to the future of our Native youth, and someone who is on fire with creative energy and purpose can really lift a person up, and I was no exception. Walt offers positive messaging to Native youth who have trouble envisioning how to move themselves into a bright and promising future. He reminds them that they are the answers to our ancestors’ prayers, and he works hard to provide resources to help them fulfill their dreams.

Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Walt and find out what he’s been doing since his residency with the Denver Art Museum. I’m sure Walt’s words of encouragement will resonate with you too, during this time of isolation, fear, and anxiety for what the future holds.

DH: What are a few projects you’ve been working on lately? Do any of them relate to the work you did in your residency at the Denver Art Museum?

WP: As you know, not only am I a fine art painter, I am also the Creative Director and owner of my Nakota Designs Advertising Design & Graphics business, as well as the Executive Director/Creator of the Stronghold Society 501(c)3 nonprofit which operates the LIVE LIFE Call To Action campaigns. I also serve on multiple boards and on the advisory committees of multiple nonprofits who are doing amazing work in Native country…. so that is a loaded question, hahaha.

I continue to partake and support many creative aspects of the arts and community outreach…my time with the DAM Native Arts Artist-in-Residency program has taken all of the work I do to a higher level from all perspectives. One specific endeavor that occurred after my residency has been joining the PYATT Architecture Studios team in building gathering and art spaces in Native American communities. Another is being on the board of directors of Visionmaker Media, an organization that helps support Native American filmmakers in film projects that empower and engage Native people to share their stories.

DH: I really enjoyed hearing about how so much of your work is about supporting Native youth and helping them envision what their futures can look like. Can you tell me how you became so drawn to working with the youth? Is there a project you would like to do that would really define success for you in this area?

WP: Being from Oglala Lakota country in Pine Ridge, South Dakota and living in the Denver area, I have seen the need to support this generation of youth, as they do face a lot of struggles and complicated world issues these days. They are the representation of the 7th Generation prophecy and it is our responsibility to support them and to help them manifest the reality of that prophecy.

The work I do with the Stronghold Society is to inspire Native youth through skateboarding, music and the arts… this nonprofit gets bigger every year, and is connected to many avenues of outreach. Our philosophy of "You Thrive, I Thrive, WE Thrive” is inviting to people from many different creative backgrounds, too. As of late, the music industry has taken a liking to our efforts, with individuals from bands like Pearl Jam, Ben Harper, Portugal the Man, Flogging Molly, Mumford and Sons and even Yo-Yo Ma, as well as many others, helping to create possibilities and opportunities for all our grand ideas to come to light. For example, they are helping us envision the possible building of a Stronghold Society Headquarters, which would be an indoor/outdoor skate park with art studios spaces for youth and a stage for music performances, as well as spaces for gardening and community events.

DH: You have a lot of energy, passion, and you’re interested in so many ways of being creative—you design skateboards, skate parks, you’re a graphic designer, a fine arts painter, you’re interested in film and spoken word…what are some ways you are channeling all of this creativity during this pandemic?

WP: VOICE. And storytelling is key right now. People need a positive example of what’s to come, a voice of encouragement, and support so their voices can be heard. Creative expression is the key to all the grand ideas to come… humanity is at a tipping point in time, and it is the creative realm within us—all of us—that will light the way for all the goodness to come. Expression through all aspect of the arts…that is the “hope” example for all of humanity to follow…. Express yourself, be creative, be active and support each other and be a caretaker of life.

DH: Is there something that surprised you about your residency that has had an effect on how you create artwork today?

WP: My theme at the DAM Native Arts Artist-in-Residence program was “Telling Our Stories of Old, Through the New Creative Means of Today.” Being around all the artwork of yesterday from our ancestors was a beautiful experience… the pieces are more than art, they are living elements of our ancestors, they are family… to feel the energy and respect given to the history of our ancestors and their creative expression was inspiring. I felt the energy daily. It was healing… it was beautiful. It inspired me even more to help tell our stories through whatever creative means I can, and to support a generation of youth by helping them find their voices so they can become positive examples in their communities, in this nation, and for this world as a whole.

The DAM residency was one of the best things that could have happened for me and for all of the work I do… I am humbled and grateful to have been a part of it. I look forward to what’s to come from the programming and would jump at any opportunity to support the programming and residency efforts ahead.

Watch video from Walt's collaboration with Native Arts Artists-in-Residence Melanie Yazzie and Gregg Deal