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From agriculture to iconic Indigenous art, the North Battleford region has much to be proud of – CBC.ca

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CBC’s virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories explores the hidden gems across Saskatchewan. You can invite CBC’s Laura Sciarpelletti to your community for a virtual tour. Visit cbc.ca/lovesk to pitch your ideas.


It is worth looking at the land around North Battleford, Sask., through the strokes of Allen Sapp’s paintbrush. 

In his paintings you will find scenes of families helping families, Cree drumming circles, early ways of farming the land, mothers with their swaddled babies and families joining around the fire to eat. 

It’s a sincere look at what makes the community electric with life, strength and beauty. 

Allen Sapp (left), Ruth Gonor (centre) and Allan Gonor (right) in their home in North Battleford in the late 1960s or early ’70s. (Submitted by Leah Garven)

Sapp was a Cree painter born on the Red Pheasant Reserve, 30 kilometres south of the city of North Battleford. As a child, he was often sick, so he watched people and his surroundings. That is evident in his paintings. 

Sapp eventually moved to North Battleford, which sits by the North Saskatchewan River, to try to make a living as an artist by selling his paintings door to door.

He gained momentum when, in 1966, he met art collector Dr. Allan Gonor, who recognized Sapp’s artistic talent. Gonor encouraged him to paint what he knew — life on the reserve.

Sapp began to do just that. And by the 1970s, His work was known across North America. 

Allen Sapp playing his drum for visiting students at the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford. (Submitted by Leah Garven )

Today, his work can be found at the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford. 

“Allen captured that agricultural life at a very difficult time for most people, let alone First Nations people who had pass and permit restrictions upon their endeavours of making a living,” said Leah Garven, curator and manager of the gallery.   

“He recorded in his paintings a lot of traditions and ceremonies that were technically banned and outlawed … Speaking for people from Red Pheasant First Nation, of course they’re very proud of their son and who he became and and how he represented their community.”

We still have people who come to the gallery, men in their 60s and 70s, who will just weep looking at the paintings because of the memories that he brings back for that generation and that way of life that’s kind of gone.– Leah Garven

Prior to his death at age 87 in 2015, Sapp drove around the North Battleford in a big Cadillac wearing big hats and other cowboy fashions.

“He was a larger than life character in town. He was very singular and very much an individual. He brightened the historical cultural persona in town,” Garven said. 

Garven describes Sapp as humble, loving, sensitive and generous.

“He was brilliant, frankly. In his last days when he would visit the gallery, he knew exactly where he was. And he would come alive when he saw his paintings and he’d sing a song when he come to the gallery,” Garven said.

“We still have people who come to the gallery, men in their 60s and 70s, who will just weep looking at the paintings because of the memories that he brings back for that generation and that way of life that’s kind of gone.”

One of Garven’s fondest memories of Sapp is the way he would interact with children at the gallery. Sapp would often sing and play his drum with them. 

“I think he had a huge impact on the thousands of students that he met over the years. Imagine the power for Indigenous youth to have a prominent building in North Battleford dedicated to the art of Allen Sapp. In my mind, we work every day for Allen.”

(CBC News)

Positive stories

When you think of North Battleford or the neighbouring town of Battleford, what comes to mind?

It might be headlines about crime. Or maybe it’s the historical armed conflict between First Nations and white settlers in 1885.

For the people who live in the Battlefords and surrounding area, there is much beauty and much to be proud of. 

Photographer and journalist Matt Jacques hosts Untapped: An Original Battlefords Saskatchewan Podcast. The podcast focuses on positive stories and the people within the community.  (Matt Jacques)

Rob Rongve is the co-creator of Untapped: An Original Battlefords Saskatchewan Podcast. The podcast, hosted by photographer and journalist Matt Jacques, focuses on positive stories and the people within the community. 

“We decided to create the podcast series to try and maybe showcase that things are very, very good here. Despite what the headlines may say as far as crime and other social issues in the community, you don’t usually hear the really positive stuff coming on the news,” said Rongve.

“North Battleford has been very publicly advertised as the crime capital of Canada. It’s not the reality for the vast majority of us that live in the community.”

That is not to say that the city and surrounding area does not have crime and social issues, Rongve said. It does — particularly due to poverty, he said. 

“But there’s a huge amount of work being done in the community to help and change that. The podcast was one way to promote the very, very positive underbelly of our great community.”

Rongve said podcast episodes about young and diverse people who are doing things to help their community or beginning creative projects are what impact him the most. 

The City of North Battleford. (Matt Jacques)

Taste of North Battleford

Have you ever wondered if you could enjoy a proper sit-down meal at a restaurant while also catching a live game of curling? Yes, that may be the most Canadian question of all time.

Well the answer is yes, you can. 

Rachel Lee owns and operates Beaver Grill Exprezz with her husband Howard in North Battleford. 

Howard and Rachel Lee own and operate Beaver Grill Exprezz in North Battleford. In the background is the local curling rink. (Don Somers/CBC)

The Korean couple moved to the city from Vancouver six years ago and serve up many different cuisines, including Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese and Western. 

“All the people who come to our restaurant, they’re all from everywhere … all different diversities … all different taste buds. But we have so many different [items on] the menu that they get to choose many different options here and they all enjoy,” Lee said.

The restaurant sits atop of the curling rink that is home to the Twin River Curling Club. Diners can catch the action. 

“It’s definitely excitement that you can see when the curling is happening. And also the customer gets to join as well.”

Vietnamese noodle soup from Beaver Grill Exprezz in North Battleford. (Beaver Grill Exprezz/Facebook)

Lee said their spin on the traditional Thai rice noodle dish Pad Thai is the favourite dish among customers. Her personal favourite is the Korean Kan-Poong Chicken — a deep-fried chicken breast mixed in Korean sweet and spicy sauce with rice. 

Elsewhere in North Battleford is Armoury Brewing Company. The microbrewery opened in late 2018 and quickly become a hub for the community. It was started by five friends and the enthusiasm is palpable as soon as you wank through the doors. 

The taps are always rotating with beers ranging from simple lagers to special holiday brews. Right now Armoury has the cinnamon Vi-Co stout — a bold stout with dark chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and lactose. 

Armoury Brewing Company opened in North Battleford in late 2018 and quickly become a hub for the community. (Don Somers/CBC)

Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum 

Let’s head across the river to the town of Battleford. There sits the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, a treasure trove of memorabilia including uniforms, photographs, baseball bats, baseballs and trophies.

“Baseball played such a big role in the development and the settlement of this province. It was a game that everybody could participate [in].They did not need a whole bunch of equipment,” said Jane Shury, president and CEO of the museum.

Baseball also turned out to be a bit of a matchmaker.

“Baseball became a social event. Many of the ballplayers played ball because it gave them something to do. They loved the game and they would meet their girlfriend at the baseball game. And so the girls also would go to the game to watch the game … but mostly to see if they could find themselves a boyfriend!” Shury said. 

Between 1876 and 1883, Battleford was the capital of the Northwest Territories. The first recorded baseball game in the history of the North West Territories was played there on May 31, 1879. 

Today, you can find a picture of that historic game at the museum. 

Shury’s favourite artifact is a photo of the pitcher in an 1886 baseball game in Lumsden. That pitcher was Walter Scott, the first Saskatchewan premier. The image has been made into a mural that covers a wall outside the museum. 

Also outside the museum, you will Canada’s biggest baseball bat.

(CBC News)

Nature

Residents and visitors of North Battleford and the surrounding area do not lack things to do and see in the great outdoors.

Head 70 kilometres east of North Battleford and you will find Crooked Bush — equal parts magical and eerie.

Crooked Bush is considered to be a botanical mystery. The Crooked Bush trail winds through a cluster of aspen trees that twist and turn in all directions … except, for some unknown reason, upwards. 

Then, 50 kilometres north of North Battleford, is Jackfish Lake. It’s a gorgeous body of water surrounded by several beaches, with three campgrounds and several hiking trails at Battlefords Provincial Park.

The lake provides great fishing with perch, walleye, pike and whitefish. An annual ice fishing derby takes place every February, usually attracting more than 2,000 competitors during non-COVID times.

Saskatchewan’s first Black settlement

Murray Mayes will repeat at least 20 times in an interview how hard it was growing up in Saskatchewan’s first Black settlement during the first half of the 20th Century. But he will immediately follow that up with how thankful he is for those hard time, because they made him stronger.

Mayes has a lot of joy, and a lot to be joyful about. He exudes pride and love for all his children, who have gone on to have successful careers, give him grandchildren and make differences in their communities. 

Murray Mayes is a descendant of black pioneers in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Mayes was born at the beginning of the Great Depression in the Black settlement of Eldon — 100 kilometres northwest of North Battleford.

After the U.S. Civil War many freed slaves, like his grandparents Joe and Mattie Mayes, moved to Oklahoma to begin a new life.

“Then some of the people that came from the south came up and see these African people. And they said, ‘let’s re-enslave them.’ And they thought, ‘we better get out of here,'” said Mayes. 

Freed slave Mattie Mayes was a well-respected midwife in the Eldon district. (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan/R-A10362)

At the time, Canada was inviting people to settle in the country and cultivate the land. 

In 1910, Joe and Mattie Mayes led a group of Black families up from the U.S. The pioneer family bought about 49 hectares of land in Saskatchewan for $10.

I just thank God I came through all those hard times because I learned so much from them.– Murray Mayes

They weren’t exactly welcome, however. The Canadian government discouraged black immigration, preferring white immigrants, according to Mayes. 

The family set up a life in Saskatchewan regardless. 

During the Depression, Mayes lived in a one-room log house with eight other people.

“I used to trap weasels and did some hunting. We didn’t have a gun even out there. We were so poor,” Mayes said of his upbringing. 

“We struggled and we had bedbugs. But I just thank God I came through all those hard times because I learned so much from them.”

Three generations of the Mayes family in front of the Shiloh Baptist Church they built. (Leander Lane Family Photo Archives)

Sweetgrasss First Nation

Saskatchewan has a rich agricultural history. As early as 1885, Battleford area farmers had formed an agricultural organization. Then in 1906, the North Battleford Agricultural Society was formed. It advocated for farmers and ranchers and spotlighted their successes in the industry.

The Cree First Nation of Sweetgrass — located 25 kilometres west of North Battleford — is part of Saskatchewan’s agricultural legacy.

Garry Albert and his wife Carma Swimmer Albert on their farm in 1997. They have been married for 47 years and counting. (Submitted by Garry Albert)

Back in 1884, a reserve was surveyed for Sweetgrass band members. At that time they sold hay and wood, and kept gardens and livestock.

Today, Sweetgrass farmers like Garry Albert carry on the tradition of their ancestors. Albert’s efforts have produced results that he takes great pride in.

Albert is a third-generation crop farmer with 55 acres of land. His grandfather began farming on Sweetgrass land in about 1920. His father would go on to farm the land as well. Albert took over in 1974. 

The Sweetgrass First Nation reserve had between 12,000 and 15,000 cultivated acres around 1920, according to Albert. 

In 1992, the federal and provincial governments signed a treaty land entitlement agreement with Saskatchewan First Nations. Under the agreement, the First Nations received money to buy land on the open market.

“With that Sweetgrass has gone forward and purchased an additional 12,000 and 15,000 acres of land. And ever since then, I’ve been continuously cropping.”

An aerial shot of the Sweetgrass First Nation. (Submitted by Chief Lorie Whitecalf)

Albert thinks he was always meant to become a farmer. He said he knew from an early age. 

“I think I was as young as 10 years old I was involved with following my grandfather around and my dad. I would be with my dad on an open-cab combine. He was combining into the evening, and I’m there in a little platform falling asleep … a little blanket covering me,” he said.

“Then there would be times he’d be hauling grain on a small truck to Cut Knife, which is only about 15 miles from here. I’d be right there. I never turned them down when they asked me if I wanted to come along.”

Albert said he clearly remembers his grandfather running a team of horses and a wagon on the farmland. 

“I’d go with him to a little pasture to the north of us where he kept a few horses and maybe a few cows. That was the biggest fond memory about my grandfather.”

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Art and technology combine for new Minecraft residency at Mackenzie Art Gallery – Global News

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An immensely popular video game will be the vehicle for the creation of a new exhibit co-hosted by Regina’s Mackenzie Art Gallery.

The Mackenzie is partnering with Ender Gallery, an online exhibition space based on a Minecraft server, to exhibit artworks created within the creative, sandbox-style video game.

“So many arts and cultural events have had to find their online forms last year and this year. So I suppose this is an attempt to do that in a way that we haven’t really seen,” said Sarah Friend, artist and co-curator of Ender Gallery (“Ender” is the name of one of Minecraft’s digital realms).

“It’s fun, new and crosses different creative communities.”

Read more:
City of Kelowna replicates city in Minecraft virtual world

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Friend says the residency will be the first project hosted on Ender Gallery.


Via Zoom

Friend, who is also a software engineer and is based in Berlin, approached her friends Cat Bluemke and Jonathan Carroll with an idea to create a virtual art space last year.

Bluemke is the digital operations coordinator at the Mackenzie and Carroll is the digital programs coordinator, .

“In talking with them the idea got fleshed out and turned into its current form in partnership with the Mackenzie,” Friend explained.

The first of four planned two-month residencies is scheduled to begin in March.

Anyone with a Minecraft account will be able to log into Ender Gallery to view the art pieces. Friend said discussions are ongoing about finding a way to display the art somewhere within the Mackenzie itself, and added that the Ender Gallery team is planning to document the exhibitions via video as well.

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“Though Minecraft is the best-selling video game of all time, its not something that everyone has access to,” Friend said. “So we want this to be available to the widest audience possible.”

Read more:
Welcome to Twitch U: Pandemic has some profs streaming lectures on gaming platform


The Mackenzie Art Gallery hired Digital Coordinators Cat Bluemke and Jonathan Carroll in 2019 to lead the creation of a Digital Lab and collaborative digital arts training initiative at the gallery.


File / Global News

Applications for the residencies are being accepted until end-of-day on January 31.

Applicants will need to select their preferred residency period, a written proposal and a portfolio, among other things, but don’t need to be experienced artists or have extensive experience with Minecraft to apply.

Each artist will be paid a $1,600 fee.

“Proposals are already coming in. Some of them look like buildings, filled with different creations, that someone on the server can see and walk through. Other proposals are creations that tell a story as you view them,” Friend said.

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“We even have proposals that would be something not built on the server, but installed on the server. Minecraft has a modding community where people create new game functionality within Minecraft, or new skins so that it looks like a different game.”

Friend said the residency follows a growing trend of projects highlighting the artistic potential of video games.

“I think we’ve only begun to see the amount of creative content that will come from that intersection.”

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Thames Art Gallery seeking community submissions for Black History Month art quilt – CTV News Windsor

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WINDSOR, ONT. —
The Thames Art Gallery is calling on members of Chatham-Kent to celebrate Black History Month by participating in a community art “quilt.”

“Celebrating Black Lives” is the theme of the digitally based installation.

For those who wish to participate, the gallery asks that you complete a work of art on the theme in any media, whether it’s a painting, drawing or writing.

Once complete, photograph your work and send it to ckartgallery@chatham-kent.ca

Gallery staff will print and assemble the works into a community art “quilt” which will be on public display in the ARTspace window for the month of February.

A donation will be made for each participating artist involved to support the distribution of the film “The North Star: Finding Black Mecca.”

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Pandemic paintings featured at the Center for the Arts – Toronto Star

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DECATUR, Ala. – As the coronavirus shuttered schools, churches and businesses and suspended life for many last spring, north Alabama painter Jane Philips turned to her art to address feelings of isolation, death, decay, rebirth, wonder and growth.

Four of the paintings Philips completed last year are currently on display at the Alabama Center for the Arts, which debuted two new exhibits last week.

Philips’ “Convalescence” in the main studio and the “Festival of the Cranes” in the walking gallery will remain on display at the downtown Decatur art centre through Feb. 19.

A multi-media artist, Philips named the show “Convalescence” due to the “hard-earned healing” she experienced last year.

“For many months following the start of the pandemic, I could not paint. I was very frustrated with myself because I seemingly had all this free time open up that I felt like I should be taking advantage of. But the truth of the matter is that this (past) year has been stressful and abnormal for everyone — no matter how hard you try not to think about it. For a while, I could only survive. I’m still working on the thriving part,” the Huntsville native said.

To cope with stress and start healing, Philips turned to nature and began hiking through the Tennessee Valley’s forests and parks.

“It’s a thing I can do alone to push myself physically and mentally. The woods became a place of peace and, oddly, connection with the world around me — just maybe not the human part of it,” Philips said. “Hiking helps me think through ideas and clear my head, and the beauty of nature around me inspires me to paint.”

That love for nature appears in Philips’ art, from “Jungle in Triplicate” — a bright and colorful three-panel jungle scene with butterflies, a frog and birds — to “Saying Hello to an Old Friend,” a painting of the artist’s hand on a tree trunk.

The other two new pieces created from oil paint, coffee, charcoal, gold leaf and house paint are “Feels Like Hope,” a portrait of a woman among a field of Queen Anne’s lace, and “Saint Anastia,” a painting of the same model.

“The model is a friend who works with NASA. She’s had some personal triumphs over the last few years, and I wanted to celebrate that and create something positive with them. I just couldn’t muster the energy to work on them until the very end of (last) year — when I could finally feel a little hope again,” Philips said.

Along with the new pieces, the exhibit features Philips’ older work, including “Hereditary/(Whisper),” which won best in show at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center’s “Embracing Art” exhibit in 2019.

Created from oil paint, gold leaf and coffee, the work shows Philips looking to the left, away from the viewer. Her chin rests on the palm of her hand and her bent fingers cover her mouth. On her right are sprigs of dried Queen Anne’s lace.

“I think at my core, I have a strong dedication to the stories and characters I share, and I’ve continued in that vein over the last two years,” said Philips, whose work, which reflects her struggle with anxiety and exploration of identity, recently appeared in the Wiregrass Museum of Art’s “Biennial” and the Huntsville Museum of Art’s “Red Clay Survey.”

To see Philips’ art, stop by the Alabama Center for the Arts Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m. to noon. Admission is free.

“I hope people can see that beauty can be found in many different moments, and not all of those moments are light or joyous or peaceful. There’s also beauty in the breakdown, in darkness, in isolation. Even if, sometimes, it feels almost impossible to find,” Philips said.

In the walking gallery, the “Festival of the Cranes” exhibit features 27 nature-themed pieces of art by 21 artists, Jennifer Bunnell, chief operating officer with Alabama Center of the Arts, said.

Held in conjunction with Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge’s Festival of the Cranes, which took place Saturday, the juried exhibit features art by students, alumni and faculty at Athens State University and Calhoun Community College.

The exhibit includes oil, acrylic, watercolour and digital paintings for whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, deer, forests and the Tennessee River.

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OTHER EXHIBITS

For more art adventures, stop by the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and the Huntsville Museum of Art. The Carnegie, on Church Street Northeast in Decatur, will unveil a new exhibit featuring photographs by Jose Betancourt on Tuesday. The exhibit, “Cuba: Memories Revisited” includes photographs from Betancourt’s return to Cuba after 48 years.

Exhibits currently on display at the Huntsville Museum of Art are “The World of Frida (Kahlo),” “Jonathan Becker: Social Work” photographs, and “Gloria Vanderbilt: An Artful Life.”

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