About Us

Our Vision

The Center for Native Futures brings together Native artists to imagine ourselves richly, where art can provide a lens to learn from the past, nurture our present, and realize a thriving future.

Mission Statement

The Center for Native Futures is the epicenter of Native creativity that fosters Native artists of all backgrounds.

Indigenous Futurism(s)

Indigenous Futurism(s) are artistic means for expanding possibilities and realities by imagining our realities without colonial limitations. The definition  of this term is ever-changing and dynamic.

Who We Are

We are Native artists who came together during a pandemic and decided to make space for a perpetual Native presence in the city of Zhegagoynak (Chicago). The founding members have a combined 20+ years of working within the arts community and have all nurtured relationships with tribal communities, Indigenous organizations, galleries, public art spaces, and Indigenous spaces.

What We Do

The Center for Native Futures is  the only all-Native artist-led arts non-profit organization in Zhegagoynak. We promote the advancement of Native fine arts, foster contemporary artists, and encourage Indigenous Futurists. Located in the Marquette Building, our art center hosts gallery exhibitions, artist-in-residencies, and community events throughout the year. 



Debra Yepa-Pappan

Co-Founder, Director of Exhibitions & Programs

(Jemez Pueblo/Korean) is a visual artist with international acclaim. Her multimedia practice, which combines digital collage and photography, centers on themes about her mixed-race identity that incorporates symbolic imagery influenced by her cultures and urban environment. Currently, Debra serves as the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Native American Exhibition renovation at The Field Museum. Through her artwork and work at the museum, she’s committed to changing inaccurate representations of Native people and advocates for the inclusion of Native first voice and perspectives.

Monica Rickert-Bolter

Co-Founder, Director of Operations

(Potawatomi/Black) is a Chicago-based visual artist, journalist, and consultant. Passionate about storytelling through art, she advocates for cultural representation in any project she undertakes. Monica pays homage to her Whitepigeon family name as a journalist and writes to amplify Natives in the arts & entertainment industries. As a consultant, she uses her decade's worth of nonprofit experience to create a more inclusive and equitable arts community throughout the city. Her artworks are on display at The Field Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.


Andrea Carlson


(Ojibwe) is a visual artist and writer currently living on Potawatomi land in Chicago, IL. Andrea’s layered practice includes painting, drawing, and arts writing on subjects ranging from museum studies to Indigenous Futurisms to assimilation metaphors in film. Her art is in various collections, such as the British Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the National Gallery of Canada. She received awards from McKnight Foundation (2008), Joan Mitchell Foundation (2016), and 3Arts “Make A Wave” (2020).

Kelli Covey

(Cherokee Nation) is an educator, facilitator, designer, mediator, coach, fundraiser, and organizational development consultant with more than 30 years’ experience working with both nonprofit organizations and corporations. Her educational background includes graduate work in Native American and African-American literature and cultural studies, extensive professional development in strategic planning, mediation, anti-racism and equity initiatives, and dialogue and reflective practices. 

Chris Pappan


(Kanza/Osage/Lakota descent) is a nationally-recognized painter and ledger artist. Based on Plains art tradition, his work literally reflects the dominant culture’s distorted perceptions of Native peoples. Chris became an agent of change at The Field Museum with Drawing On Tradition, a two-year exhibit and intervention in the neglected and problematic Native American hall that presented contemporary Indigenous perspectives. His works are in collections of renowned institutions worldwide including the National Museum of the American Indian and The North American Native Museum of Geneva, Switzerland.


Zhegagoynak (Potawatomi for Chicago) is called many names by the various Native nations who have called this city home. We acknowledge the US government's forced removal of the Potawatomi people, and we recognize those who found a way to continually remain here. We honor the solidarity of the Nishnabek people in this place: Potawatomi, Ojibwe, Odawa, and Menominee, as well as the Ho-Chunk, Myaamia, and Peoria people, and many other nations who have maintained Zhegagoynak as an Indigenous place. We are here for Natives.

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