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Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event – Nelson Star

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It took Damian John decades to realize words weren’t always the best way to connect with people.

When John was in his 20s he became woke to the problems of the world and hoped to make a change. In his 30s, having failed to make that change, he struggled with depression and anxiety.

But four years ago the now 43 year old quit his career as a massage therapist to focus on his art. That choice led to an epiphany.

“I think the dialogue that we have with words is limited. You have this understanding of words, I have an understanding of words. Sometimes they don’t match up,” he says.

“We’re really bad at telling each other what we’re feeling and we’re really bad at understanding what the other person is saying to us in general, even with people we know well. So I thought, but what about having art do that for us and being creative with how we speak to each other.”

John, a Ymir-based artist, hopes to meld words and art into a new type of conversation when he hosts a workshop for BC Culture Days on Sept. 26. Jones was the only West Kootenay artist named ambassador to the annual event, which will run Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.

His livestream is titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity, in which John plans to tell the story of how colonization affected his family and people before having participants create art based on the discussion.

A member of Tl’azt’en First Nation near Prince George, John grew up with a family traumatized by the residential school system. His father attended nearby Lejac Residential School, a Catholic-run facility that operated from 1922 to 1976.

The school is partly remembered now for being the place four boys froze to death while trying to escape from in 1937.

“All of my family on that side is directly impacted by colonization, by residential school,” said John, “and that impacts us as his children, that affects nephews and generations that are coming after us. There’s a heavy, heavy impact mentally, health wise, relationally, all of these various components which would take a long time to talk to or speak to in a real strong way.”

First Nations art has always been a part of John’s life. His father brought pieces home, and John was later influenced by artists Robert Sebastian and Roy Henry Vickers.

John’s own art is vibrant, colourful and distinctly modern. In his work he’s found a place to explore his culture and voice concerns while also being in control of the outcome in a way he never felt he could in conversation.

“If I want to have a life that has any feelings of quality to it, I need to shift things,” he says. “So making things that I think are beautiful, and allowing people to engage in that space as well, felt useful.”

That’s how he hopes the people who take his workshop feel after creating their own work. John wants to inspire new ways of discourse about difficult topics despite personal differences, and he thinks art is the key.

“How do we bridge those spaces to come to a place of community and goodwill and conflict resolution?” he says. “In spite of being devastated by all the information out there I still have hope we can do things differently.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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Damian John holds a painting he recently completed of his grandmother. John will be exploring reconciliation through art during an event for BC Culture Days. Photo: Tyler Harper

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Pay Phones Turned Into Public Art, in “Titan” – The New Yorker

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Photograph by Chris Maggio for The New Yorker

New York City’s pay phones are obsolete, and, by early next year, they will also be history—removed to make way for Wi-Fi kiosks. Through Jan. 3, a dozen artists (including Glenn Ligon, Patti Smith, and Jimmie Durham, whose contribution is pictured above) are making creative use of phone booths along Sixth Avenue, from Fifty-first to Fifty-sixth Streets. The project, called “Titan,” was co-curated by Damián Ortega and Bree Zucker, in collaboration with the Kurimanzutto gallery.

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Qaumajuq—new name of Winnipeg Art Gallery's Inuit art centre—an act of decolonization – WellandTribune.ca

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​The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre has a new name.

In a ceremony on Oct. 28, the gallery, known as WAG, announced the centre would be renamed Qaumajuq [HOW-ma-yourq], an Inuktitut word meaning “It is bright, it is lit”.

Qaumajuq is set to open in February 2021 after construction began in March 2018 on a new 40,000-square-foot-building designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture with Cibinel Architecture. It’s home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.

The WAG building itself was given a name in Anishinaabemowin—Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah [BEEN- deh-gen Bi-WAH-say-yah], meaning “Come on in, the dawn of light is here” or “the dawn of light is coming.”

The naming ceremony was hosted by Dr. Stephen Borys, director and CEO of WAG. The ceremony occurred with a small gathering of Borys and Julia Lafreniere, WAG manager of Indigenous Initiatives. A Qulliq lighting ceremony was conducted by Elder Martha Peet, with virtual appearances from Theresie Tungilik and Elder Dr. Mary Courchene. The latter two formally announced the new names in Inuktitut and Anishinaabemowin respectively.

Tungilik, an Inuk artist from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, said “Qaumajuq will be a place where all walks of life will experience, through the creation of Inuit art, our survival, hardships and resilience.”

Courchene, who comes from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, said the Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah name was created to “include all the Indigenous populations of Manitoba, the First Nations, the Métis, and the Inuit populations.”

“The language keepers and Elders came together in a powerful moment of cross-cultural reflection and relationship-building,” Borys said. “This initiative is an act of decolonization, supporting reconciliation and Indigenous knowledge transmission for generations to come in an effort to ensure WAG-Qaumajuq will be a home where Indigenous communities feel welcome. Where everyone feels welcome.”

In addition to the new name of Qaumajuq, which will serve as the primary name for the space, various areas within the WAG will also have new names in Inuvialuktun (Inuit), Nêhiyawêwin (Cree), Dakota, and Michif (Métis) that were given by Indigenous language keepers.

“Indigenous-focused and Indigenous-led initiatives will be at the heart of this new space and giving the spaces Indigenous names is just the start,” reads the WAG’s website where pronunciations and audio clips for the new names are available.

“We are thrilled to share the names of the spaces in the seven Indigenous languages of Manitoba and Inuit Nunangat,” said Dr. Heather Igloliorte and Dr. Julie Nagam, co-chairs of the Indigenous Advisory Circle for Winnipeg Art Gallery, in a joint statement.

“The Circle demonstrates the breadth of knowledge that represents the relationship to the collection and the buildings and it has been an incredible experience for all Circle members. We are so honoured to gift the institution with these new names that point to a new path forward for galleries and museums in this country,” the statement continued.

The WAG also states that the “historic naming responds to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 13 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 14i, both of which reference the importance of Indigenous languages.”

Article 13 reads:

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.

TRC Call to Action 14i states:

Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.

A press release issued by WAG states that Qaumajuq “will innovate the art museum, taking art from object to full sensory experience with Inuit-led programming.” One of these features includes the three-storey tall column called the ‘visible vault’ that is filled with thousands of Inuit carvings and immediately viewable upon entry into Qaumajuq.

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“This is a place that amplifies and uplifts Inuit stories, connecting Canada’s North and South. This is a site for reconciliation… We can’t wait to unveil this new cultural landmark in the heart of the country with these new names honouring Indigenous voices and languages,” Borys said.

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Art-loving couple helping Bayfield arts hub get off the ground – Toronto Star

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A Bayfield-based arts non-profit is moving forward with plans for an arts centre in the Huron County community, thanks to a large donation from a local couple.

The Bayfield Centre for the Arts (BCA) has purchased a building on the village’s edge that will be transformed into a 1,115-square-metre visual arts hub.

“The concept of a Bayfield arts centre had been cooking for several years, but I wanted to formalize the vision . . . in terms of acquiring a building and bringing together a number of art organizations under one roof,” said centre president Leslee Squirrell.

Squirrell said the new facility will include an art gallery to showcase local artists and travelling exhibits, plus studio spaces and rooms for workshops.

A variety of arts will be featured, from new media and photography to painting, pottery and woodworking.

“We do have a big vision,” Squirrell said. “Even though the centre itself might be located in Bayfield, the purpose is to be a destination arts centre. It’s for the broader local community and those all over the county.”

Purchase of the building, at Highway 21 and Cameron Street, was made possible by a “significant financial donation” from Huron County residents Mac Voisin and Marcela Bahar.

“This state-of-the-art facility will benefit generations to come,” Voisin said. “(We are) delighted to be part of this project.”

Along with educational workshops and art showcases, Squirrell said they plan a mobile art truck that will let the centre take programming on the road across the region.

A film festival is also in the works, spurred on by the recent shooting of the movie Trigger Point in Bayfield.

The film’s director, Brad Turner, lives in the Lake Huron village seasonally and is a BCA adviser, Squirrell said.

The centre now uses a converted barn on Bayfield’s Main Street as a temporary home.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has been holding outdoor painting and photography workshops.

“We’re doing the best we can to continue to create our vision even though COVID has created obstacles,” Squirrell said.

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She said the picturesque village is the perfect backdrop for a Southwestern Ontario arts hub, since it’s already a popular tourist destination with many local artists nearby.

“We’re an incredibly beautiful, ideal, creative type of community on Lake Huron,” Squirrell said.

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