Forge Project Transitions to Nonprofit Status, Launches New Organizational Model

Apr 24, 2024

Mahicannituck (Hudson river) valley, NY — April 24, 2024 –– Forge Project, the decolonial arts and culture initiative located on the unceded homelands of the Moh-He-Con-Nuck in Upstate New York, today announced major new steps to further expand its Native-led organizational structure, deepening its unique model of Indigenous self-determination. This includes the formation of an Indigenous Steering Council, a memorandum of understanding with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, and a transition to 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

Under the leadership of Executive Director & Chief Curator Candice Hopkins (Carcross/Tagish First Nation) and Director of Indigenous Programs & Relationality Sarah Biscarra Dilley (yaktitʸutitʸu yaktiłhini [Northern Chumash]), Forge has directly supported nearly 300 Indigenous artists, hosted dozens of cultural practitioners and knowledge keepers, and built new audiences and platforms for their work. 

“Forge has a unique vision and is unlike any other organization in the country: We are looking to reshape dialogues on Indigenous culture. The absence of Indigenous voices from national conversations on history, politics, and culture broadly should not be tolerable,” said Forge Project Executive Director & Chief Curator Candice Hopkins (Carcross/Tagish First Nation). “I believe Forge has the opportunity to become the foremost platform for Indigenous leaders and those who will lead us in the future."

Co-founded in 2021 by Becky Gochman and Zach Feuer, Forge was initially established as a private organization to facilitate an immediate, direct impact within the arts and cultural landscape. Since its founding, Gochman has provided seed funding to facilitate the development and implementation of Forge’s Native-led organizational models. Building upon the momentum Forge has achieved over three years, this transition into a nonprofit organization now enacts Indigenous-led governance structures and ensures the organization’s sustainability and long-term impact.

With this shift, the ownership of Forge’s property and assets—including its 60-acre campus, buildings designed by Ai Weiwei, and an art collection of over 175 works, all by contemporary Indigenous artists—have now come under Forge as a nonprofit organization. This transferral of property, assets, and institutional oversight affirms Indigenous self-determination by providing complete agency to Forge’s Native leadership to collectively shape the future of the organization.

“Zach and I hope that Forge can serve as a model for supporting self-determination for other long-term Native initiatives,” said Becky Gochman, co-founder of Forge Project. “It has been an honor to support Forge’s leadership in their development of Native-led institutional models, and we look forward to seeing how this next chapter will further cement their impact in uplifting Indigenous cultural production and fostering decolonial infrastructures. I hope others will be inspired by the possibilities for pursuing alternative pathways for meaningful philanthropy and wealth redistribution.”

The Indigenous Steering Council (ISC), a regionally diverse, intergenerational group of seven Indigenous leaders, will set high-level priorities and guide the direction of the organization, positioning continuous and collective Indigenous governance at the core of Forge’s organizational framework. The Indigenous Steering Council currently includes Chair and Board Liaison Kerry Swanson (Michipicoten First Nation), Vice-Chair and Board Liaison Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians), and members Monique Tyndall (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans), Jeffrey Gibson (Choctaw and Cherokee), G. Peter Jemison (Seneca Nation, Heron Clan), Jasmine Neosh (Menominee), and Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora Nation, Turtle Clan). Hopinka and Swanson will additionally serve on Forge’s Board of Directors, led by Board President Mimi Joh-Carnella, alongside board members including John Haworth.

“I am honored that my colleagues have invited me to serve as Chair of the Indigenous Steering Council,” said ISC Chair and Board Liaison Kerry Swanson (Michipicoten First Nation). “In only a short time I have gained new insights from the ISC and the entire Forge team, and am inspired by the care and attention they have put into articulating the values that will shape the organization. Forge is modeling Indigenous leadership across all aspects of its design, where reciprocity, consensus and community are centered in the delivery of all programs and policies.”

The continued evolution of Forge reflects the organization’s mission to co-create new and urgent models of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, including through knowledge-sharing, community-building, wealth redistribution, and frameworks for supporting cultural production and building collective action. Forge’s foremost commitment to Indigenous leadership has and continues to directly inform their strategic planning, community contributions, and both public and relational programming. This includes the development of diplomatic relations with Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, within whose homelands Forge is situated, as well as collaborations with broad networks of Indigenous leaders and organizations.

A foundational aspect of Forge’s work includes enacting responsibility to Moh-He-Con-Nuck peoples through formal diplomacy alongside Stockbridge-Munsee Community (SMC). Through close collaboration between Sarah Biscarra Dilley, Director of Indigenous Programs & Relationality, and Monique Tyndall, Director of SMC’s Cultural Affairs Department, they have developed a multi-year memorandum of understanding responsive to community needs, including deliverables focused on ongoing collaboration to expand place-based research and cultural access, engage narrative and visual sovereignty, and support avenues of return through co-developed programming and initiatives.

Forge’s initiatives include the Forge Project Fellowship, supporting Indigenous cultural workers; the Forge Project Collection, a lending collection of work by contemporary Indigenous artists; Forging, a digital-first journal centered upon Native futures; land remediation efforts; public and relational programming; and more. 

Forge’s partners, collaborators, and program participants across and beyond the Mahicannituck River Valley have included Stockbridge-Munsee Community Cultural Affairs Department; Bard College; Braiding the Sacred; Gakwi:y:oh Farms; Ganondagan State Historic Site; Iroquois White Corn Project; Kite’s Nest; Lil’ Deb’s Oasis; Sky High Farm; and Upstate Color. Recent collaborations have included the landmark exhibition Indian Theater: Native Performance, Art, and Self-Determination since 1969, curated by Hopkins and presented at the Hessel Museum of Art in celebration of Forge’s partnership with Bard College, where Hopkins also serves as CCS Bard’s Fellow in Indigenous Art History and Curatorial Studies.

As they continue to grow in this new phase, the organization aims to continue to hone their impact across their focus areas as well as better support cross-disciplinary practices. Building from guidance offered by the ISC, Forge will work across three areas of focus for the next three years—Land, Language, and Sovereignty—bridging research and community outreach, public-facing programs and invitation-only convenings, and reflection across mediums to deepen collective understanding of each. Forge facilitates a balance of Indigenous-only and intentionally intra-community programs like shared meals, convenings, critical conversations and retreats, recognizing the importance of expanding public discourse on Native political, social, and material realities while nurturing the deep intellectual and kinship-based worldbuilding that Native-focused spaces make possible. 

Nonprofit status additionally enables Forge to expand their ecosystem as an organization, offering new ways for community members to join in efforts to invest in Indigenous futures, countering historical and ongoing inequities through the redistribution of resources and wealth. As they build their base of support, Forge is committed to tangible wealth redistribution, in which resources and responsibilities are intertwined. They are continuing to develop the various channels through which donors may demonstrate support, including through networks such as Changemakers for Native Art: Collection Stewardship, Equity, and Institutional Change, a group of Forge supporters investing in the future of contemporary Native art by advocating for institutional change in service of Indigenous art and artists. For more information on Changemakers for Native Art and other opportunities for donor involvement, please visit

About Forge Project 

Forge Project is a Native-led organization whose mandate is to cultivate and advance Indigenous leadership in arts and culture. Located within the ancestral homelands of the Moh-He-Con-Nuck, Forge is situated on a 60-acre campus in the Mahicannituck (Hudson river) valley. Forge Project is a model for Native cultural self-determination and leadership, fusing traditional and contemporary knowledge and practices to build community, public education, and collective action.

Press Contacts

Ed Winstead
Senior Vice President, Cultural Counsel
[email protected]

Devon Ma
Senior Account Coordinator, Cultural Counsel
[email protected]

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