CMNW Council

Native Arts and Cultures Foundation gets a new leader

The Portland-based national cultural organization chooses Shyla Spicer to carry its multiple programs forward as its new president and CEO.


T. Lulani Arquette (left), outgoing president and CEO of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and Shyla Spicer, the group’s new president and CEO. Photos courtesy NACF.

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, a national group based in Portland, has hired a new president and chief executive officer following a nine-month search. Shyla Spicer (Yakama) will take on the dual post, replacing founding President/CEO T. Lulani Arquette (Kanaka ‘Ōiwi [Native Hawaiian]), who is leaving after 15 years.

Spicer, who grew up in Portland, has been executive director of the Suquamish Tribe in Washington state, and has worked in global marketing, technology, and supply chain operations at Nike. She has an MBA degree from the University of Portland, has been on the board of the Portland tri-county area’s Regional Arts and Culture Council, and is a board member of the Chief Seattle Club.

The search committee that chose Spicer was led by NACF Board Chair Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation; former U.S. Poet Laureate) and Board Treasurer Raymond Foxworth (Navajo Nation), with the firm Koya Partners LLC.

“I am honored to join the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, an organization that has been a beacon of support for Native artists,” Spicer said in a news release. “I look forward to building upon the incredible legacy left by Lulani Arquette and working collaboratively to amplify the impact of Native arts and cultures.”

Arquette, who has a theater background, is leaving NACF to pursue her own creative projects. She’ll be available for consultation through April to help ensure a smooth transition. “I’m thrilled that Shyla has joined NACF as the new President/CEO,” she said in the new release. “Her friendly, thoughtful approach and careful listening skills have already benefited staff, board, and colleagues in positive ways. … I truly believe Shyla’s numerous talents and skills will greatly contribute to Native arts and cultures, Indigenous artists, and our communities in wonderfully new and impactful ways.”

The historic Yale Union Building in Southeast Portland, seen here in an exterior phoograph, is the home of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.
The historic Yale Union Building in Southeast Portland is the home of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, which had been based in Vancouver, Wash., moved to Portland in 2021 when the Yale Union contemporary arts center disbanded and deeded its building at 800 S.E. 10th Ave. to NACF: Robert Ham wrote for ArtsWatch about the transfer here. The group is in the midst of remodeling plans, which Spicer will help carry through.


Portland Opera Puccini

The NACF supports artists and American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native communities in a variety of ways, from early-career support for Native artists to mentorships, retreats, project grants, and more. In its 15 years it’s supported nearly 400 artists and arts organizations in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

It also presents exhibitions, such as 2023’s show by Native Alaskan artists exploring violence against Native women and other cultural issues, Protection: Adaptation & Resilience, which Beth Sorensen wrote about here. And in 2022 it published The Larger Voice, an anthology of work by Native writers, which was edited by poet Rena Priest (Lhaq’temish [Lummi] Nation), who at the time was Poet Laureate of Washington state.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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