MAPS Media Institute Receives $36,000 National Endowment for the Arts Grant

MAPS Media Institute has been approved for a $36,100 Grants for Arts Projects award to support the continued expansion of the MAPS Media Lab, their statewide educational outreach program which brings MAPS award-winning programming to students in tribal communities across Montana.

MAPS Media Institute’s project is among the more than 1,100 projects across America totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as MAPS Media Institute re-engage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.”

“While MAPS was born in the Bitterroot in 2004, we’ve been intentionally expanding our work with communities across Montana for the past several years,” said Clare Ann Harff, MAPS Executive Director. “The NEA has been a consistent funding partner since 2017 and their continued support directly impacts the hundreds of young people MAPS serves statewide. On behalf of everyone in the MAPS community, we’re grateful for the NEA’s recognition of our work and in the power of media arts as a tool for creative self-expression, communication and community storytelling.”

The MAPS Media Lab program originated several years ago as one-week intensive filmmaking workshops for students in St. Ignatius, Browning and Harlem. They were made possible through a partnership with Montana GEAR Up and additional funding from the Greater Montana Foundation.

“This type of “crash course” instruction offered an introduction to MAPS to new communities,” said Harff. “They also provided opportunities for us to make connections with community leaders and strategize on other media projects MAPS could facilitate with students.”

While the student experience is always the priority, several MAPS Media Lab projects have garnered significant regional and national awards. “Browning Rising Voices” produced in 2017 with Browning High School students, won the National Student Production Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences — the nation’s highest award for high school filmmakers.

“Looking Forward from Yesterday”, a film produced with students from Harlem High School near the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, was nominated for the 2020 National Student Production Award and also screened at the Portland International and Seattle International Film Festivals.

“The inspiration for the film came from the ways we are preserving our culture as Aaniiih and Nakoda people,” student director Alexis Bigby said. “It talks about the troubles that plague our communities, how our culture helps us heal and how we, as Aaniiih and Nakoda people, have to be more open to learning and listening so our culture doesn’t die out.”

“Opportunities like the Harlem workshop are often the first time students have a professional, hands-on experience with filmmaking, equipment and with working artists,” said MAPS Media Lab director Dru Carr. “Not only do they have a chance to see their worlds through a different lens, but they also learn more about themselves along the way.”

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit

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