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Aborginal art gives vibrant life to culture, tradition
Art is an important reflection of Indigenous culture through the ages. It tells the stories of the Aboriginal people and their traditions in a manner that transcends the written word. In Alberta, that work is celebrated in annual travelling exhibitions.
Each of the specialized First Nations exhibits features a theme of its own, is curated and displayed in the north central and northeast regions for one year before travelling on to schools, galleries and museums throughout the other regions of the province. For their last six months, the exhibitions return home for display in the Edmonton area.
“The Syncrude-sponsored exhibitions are a challenge from my end because I am not First Nations,” said Shane Golby, manager/curator for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition Program (TREX), organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta. “That’s why I love this aspect of the TREX program, because it takes me into a whole different realm and allows me to meet a whole new group of people. It allows First Nations artists to have a voice, and gives them that forum to support their work.”
There are presently three such Syncrude-sponsored First Nations exhibits travelling the province and a fourth will open in December.
The Maskwacîs (Bear Hills) exhibition is now in its final months. It provides a positive approach to life in the Bear Hills community, including art and artifacts provided by the people who live there. Displayed at the Royal Alberta Museum for the summer, the exhibit is now travelling through area schools and will wrap up in December.
Blue Quills First Nations College, near St. Paul, and the Indigenous Artists’ Program offered at the college are profiled in the exhibition, Creator Paints the World…The Colour of Our Voice.
It offers insights into social and cultural life there, through a variety of themes, styles and media.
Developed by Sherri Chisan and Lana Whiskeyjack of Blue Quill First Nations College, Creator Paints the World has the guiding premise of, “We must speak our truth in words and pictures and songs and movement, or it will be forgotten, it will be lost in the forest of the world that has come to share our lands… What we create becomes who we are. We are learning about our spiritual self, together, we are art and ceremony.” The exhibition is showing in the Grande Prairie region now, and will move on to the Medicine Hat area in January, where it will stay for half a year. It returns to the north central (Edmonton) region for its final six months.
Three renowned contemporary Alberta First Nations artists use a variety of media and stylistic expressions to explore the spiritual connection to nature and the wilderness in the exhibition Our Wilderness is Wisdom in accordance to the Terry Tempest Williams quote, “Our sense of community and compassionate intelligence must be extended to all life forms, plants, animals, rocks, rivers, and human beings. This is the story of our past and it will be the story of our future.” Curated by Métis artist and educator Heather Shillinglaw, it features artistic perceptions of the land and environment by Alex Janvier, Curtis Johnson and Tanya Harnett.
Our Wilderness is Wisdom began its tour of the north central and northeast region of Alberta in January 2012 and will continue until December, when it moves on to travel the other regions of the province.
Urban Animals, which opens in December 2012 at the Visual Arts Alberta gallery, was curated by Jaret Sinclair-Gibson, director of Sun and Moon Visionaries, an Aboriginal Artisans Society. It features 18 paintings by Edmonton artist Jason Carter, examining six animals that are indigenous to Alberta, and how they fit in to both a natural environment and an urban landscape. As man encroaches on their territory, the animals continue to adapt.
Urban Animals will begin its two-year tour to galleries, museums and schools around the province in January 2013.
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