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Indigenous art show explores role of kinship in culture while works convey pain, hope, beauty –



In Unmarked, a painting now showing at a Toronto art gallery, a young Indigenous girl holds a human skull in her hands and stares at the viewer, her eyes full of sadness.

D. Ahsén:nase Douglas, a Kanien’kehá:ka painter with roots in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory, created the artwork in January 2020, more than a year before the discovery of unmarked graves of children at Indian residential schools in Canada.

For Douglas, who considers himself a figurative painter, Unmarked depicts the loss of culture, language and children that occurred because of the Canadian residential school system. He said residential schools took away and “destroyed” the next generation of Indigenous people.

The painting is especially relevant now, he added.

“Most of my relatives have gone to residential school. I carry a lot of their stories, especially my auntie. It’s part of what I know as an Indigenous person,” Douglas said.

“I wanted to express essentially a feeling of loss, but also a feeling of sadness that I felt for the loss of the children as well as our culture and our language,” he added.

“The thing that a lot of people in Canada don’t realize is we’ve always known that children were missing. We’ve always understood. Even during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a lot of our elders weren’t believed. It wasn’t something that they felt was important enough to investigate. It’s something that we already knew.”

Unmarked is one of 29 artworks by 12 Indigenous artists that make up the Wisdom of Kinship exhibition at Toronto’s Leslie Grove Gallery, which is run by the Artists’ Network, a group of independent Canadian artists. The exhibition, which opened last Thursday, runs until Aug. 22. Douglas has seven paintings in the show. The works explore the role of kinship and community within Indigenous culture. 

“All of these paintings in one way or another relate to relationships,” Douglas said.

“Relationships are very important for Indigenous people. It’s probably the most important thing. Wisdom of Kinship is an expression of those relationships.”

This photograph by Lisa MacIntosh, Water First, is one of 29 artworks by 12 Indigenous artists at a new exhibition at a Toronto art gallery. It features Lucy Paibomsai from Whitefish River First Nation. (Lisa MacIntosh)

Lisa MacIntosh, a photographer based in Brant County and whose family is Abenaki First Nation, has the only photograph in the exhibition. It’s called Water First and it features Lucy Paibomsai from Whitefish River First Nation.

“There is power here; community, connectedness, truth, injustice.  There is a story here, it’s message is raw and shameful. The lack of clean, safe drinking water in First Nations is one of the greatest violations of human rights to water and sanitation,” MacIntosh said in an email. 

“When you look at this image, I hope you ask questions. I hope you recognize the power of our youth. I hope you see injustice. I hope it makes you feel uncomfortable. I hope you are inspired to demand change.”

‘We have to make allies,’ curator of show says

Diane Montreuil, a Métis artist and educator, curated the show. Montreuil and Nathalie Bertin, a Métis multidisciplinary artist, juried the show together. It is the first Indigenous art show to be organized and financially supported by the Artists’ Network.

“We have to make allies, and plant a seed of relationships, nourish it, and this will lead to reconciliation,” Montreuil said in a news release.

The show comes as other Indigenous artists are unveiling new works in Toronto and across Ontario. Last weekend, for example, some Indigenous artists unveiled a series of murals in a laneway in downtown Toronto.

The artists said the discovery of burial sites at Indian residential schools has put a new spotlight on their history and culture. Douglas agreed.

“We’re in the process of making history. It’s almost as though all paths are coming to a single point,” he said.

Douglas also teaches part-time on a freelance basis.

“I tell my students, artwork is an expression of who we are, our personal histories, our experiences and our culture. All of my paintings will express these elements to a certain degree.”

A description of this painting reads: ‘Resilience depicts the continuing and seemingly endless supply of courage, strength and will power that our Indigenous youth are able to muster in the wake of continued social injustice. It is a battle cry of sorts in which the young will be tasked with continuing the fight for equity and sovereignty of culture within colonial Turtle Island.’ (D. Ahsén:nase Douglas )

Another painting by Douglas in the show is Resilience. The painting is of a young boy, with his fist in the air. A crowd of people behind him represent those who have passed. The boy, despite the loss behind him, still has the strength to stand and resist.

Douglas said Indigenous children are always described as being “resilient,” but he finds that adjective strange because it’s a trait used to survive.

“If it was a non-Indigenous child, you wouldn’t use the word ‘resilient’ to describe them. You could call them smart, or beautiful, or intelligent, or athletic. You would use these other terms,” he said.

“In a lot of cases, people will describe Indigenous children as resilient. It’s a good thing, but it’s something that our children have had to learn to be in order to survive. I felt there was something not right there. It was something that was forced upon them because of residential schools, reserves, the poverty that they live in,” he said. 

A description of the painting reads: “Resilience depicts the continuing and seemingly endless supply of courage, strength and will power that our Indigenous youth are able to muster in the wake of continued social injustice. It is a battle cry of sorts in which the young will be tasked with continuing the fight for equity and sovereignty of culture within colonial Turtle Island.”

Douglas has a solo show at the Orillia Museum of Art and History in November that runs until April. He says his work, although it explores Indigenous themes, does not follow the characteristics of what is typically considered “Indigenous Art” in North America.

The Artists’ Network will donate proceeds from the show to the Save the Evidence Campaign at Woodlands Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ont. The campaign aims to turn the former Mohawk Institute Residential School into an interpretive historic site and educational resource to ensure what happened there will never be forgotten.

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Humboldt Public School collaborative art project complete –



The Humboldt Public school recently finished an art project that utilized every student in the school and now has a colourful fibre art display on the fence along highway 5. 

The school is a pre-k to grade 8 school and has approximately 330 students.  

The project began when a teacher wanted to do a large scale project with the entire student body. 

Teacher Michelle Lafayette applied for a SK Art grant and began contacting the artist who would help lead the school through the project.  

Lafayette explains how it all got started. 

“Well, when COVID happened we had to rethink how we did everything. I wanted to do a school-wide project that we could do around arts. So, I did a quilting project because I am a quilter. Then the kids made a quilt piece out of construction paper and made a huge collaborative quilt. It was a great project. So, I wanted to do something again this year but I didn’t want to do it all by myself so I searched for grants so that I could hire an artist to come in and do this for us. I knew that Monika had done school projects before and community projects. I had seen the work that she did on Broadway (Saskatoon) when they had construction and she had woven fabric onto the fence. I thought it was amazing and something that we could do here also.”  

Every student regardless of abilities was able to contribute to the project.

The project consisted of many different types of fabric and fibres, from old sheets to yarn, with different patterns and colours, it has a wide range of sizes and textures. 

To begin with, the fabric had to be broken down into small manageable sizes. 

“So, what we did was we got donated sheets and materials and the kids came in and ripped the fabric. They loved it! A little cut and then the sound when they ripped it, and some got really physical and used all their strength and showed me how they could rip it. It was amazing,” said Lafayette. 

The fabric was then wrapped around circular things, hula-hoops, ice cream pail lids, plant trays, and even cut-up corrugated plastic signs. Everything was recycled materials as after it has been out in the weather it will likely be trash.  

The artist Monika Kinner, who is from Saskatoon, was so happy with the results. 

“The end result is what we hoped for, how we got there was completely not what I had expected it was far beyond what I expected. I am really appreciative of my own creativity and ideas because of all the rain we had to completely change what we were doing. That was fun for me, so I have to say I appreciate the opportunity to be so creative and fly by the seat of my pants.” 

The display will likely be up until sometime in October, however with the weather it could change. 

The students involved really enjoyed the time and effort that was put in and now can be proud of their work displayed outside the school. 

SK Art was also impressed by the project and encouraged all schools to bring in artists and allow them to work with students on different projects. 

“Bring artists into schools!” stated SK Art program consultant for Art in Schools Projects, Jody Greenman-Barber.

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Winners announced for BC-wide art, writing contest for Indigenous youth – Trail Daily Times – Trail Times



The winners have been announced in a provincewide children’s art/writing contest where youth were asked what being Indigenous means to them.

In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day and hosted by Xyólheméylh (Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society) the contest was open to all Indigenous people age five to 24.

The entries were judged by a panel consisting of Xyólheméylh’s board of directors and elders advisory committee. There were three categories – ages five to 10, ages 11 to 14, and ages 15 to 24.

The children and youth expressed their connection to the land, nature, animals, and their families. They also expressed their hopes and dreams as well as their sadness with discrimination and racism.

“Many artists have painted or drawn pictures of wolves howling at a full moon. In my artwork, I have used the dream catcher as my moon because I want the dream catcher to catch and protect all my hopes and dreams of being a person who is known to protect friends, freedom, family, loyalty, and teamwork,” said 10-year-old Emiley of her artwork.

Kyan won first place in the ages 15 to 24 category.

“Stereotypes often take over how First Nations are seen, and when someone looks at you and automatically thinks that what you are isn’t something to be proud of it makes you feel bad no matter how proud you are,” Kyan wrote.

“Thank you to all the children and youth who submitted their heartfelt art. It is truly inspiring to see the talent, creativity and the pride expressed in being Indigenous,” said board president Dr. Wenona Hall.

READ MORE: Fraser Valley writing, art contest open to all Indigenous youth in B.C.


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ARTS AROUND: New art exhibit showcases ‘Women’s Work’ in Port Alberni – Alberni Valley News





A new art exhibit is opening at the Rollin Art Centre, featuring a group of four local female artists.

Sue Thomas, Jillian Mayne, Colleen Clancy and Ann McIvor will display their artwork in an exhibit titled “Women’s Work” that opens on June 21 and runs until July 22. The diversity of the work reflects each woman’s unique creative process and artistic expression.

Join us in the gallery this Saturday, June 25 from 1-3 p.m. for refreshments and an opportunity to meet these incredible and accomplished artists.


The Rollin Art Centre will be holding a summer-inspired art exhibit from July 27 to Aug. 26 and we are inviting all local artists to submit up to three pieces (size depending) that depicts your own rendition of the season of summer.

All mediums are welcome. Application forms are available at the Rollin Art Centre. The fee is $10 per submission. Deadline for submissions is July 15.


Join us on the terrace at the Rollin Art Centre on Saturday, July 16 for an acrylic painting workshop with Susan Schaefer. Bring a friend and be creative!

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Susan will guide you through what makes a good composition while simplifying your landscape.

The workshop fee is $115 +GST. A supply list is available. Register at the Rollin Art Centre at 250-724-3412.


This summer, the Community Arts Council will be raffling a chair designed by Leave Her Wild Container Design. The chair has been planted and is on display at the Rollin Art Centre (corner of Eighth Avenue and Argyle Street). Tickets are $2 each or three for $5.


Teas on the Terrace are back at the Rollin Art Centre this summer and tickets are now on sale.

Choose from our high tea (served on a two-tiered plate) for $25 and our strawberry tea (served with decadent strawberry shortcake) for $20 and join us on the terrace under the canopy of the trees, sipping tea, listening to local musicians and sampling a selection of snacks.

July 7 – Strawberry Tea – Folk Song Circle

July 21 – High Tea – Dennis Olsen

August 4 – Strawberry Tea – Dennis Olsen & Guy Langlois

August 18 – High Tea – Doug Gretsinger


Here’s a chance to have your kids do something creative and fun and make new friends this summer. The Rollin Art Centre is offering eight weeks of creative summer art programs for children between the ages of 7 -13.

Each week features a different medium. From drawing to painting, we have something everyone will enjoy.

The three-day camps take place Monday to Wednesday for ages 7-8 (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), and ages 9-11 (1:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.). The cost is $75 per week.

There is also a camp for ages 11 to 13 on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ($45 per camp).

Call 250-724-3412 to register.


Celtic Chaos will perform a maintee at the Capitol Theatre this fall as a fundraiser for the Rollin Art Centre.

“For the Highlander” is a brand-new performance by Celtic Chaos which tells their story in original narrative, poetry, song and music. Join us for this high-energy, fun-loving group of musicians and help support art in the community.

The concert takes place Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets are $25 each and are available now at the Rollin Art Centre.


The Sunshine Club will be holding a pottery sale at the Harbour Quay on Saturday, June 25 from 9 a.m. to noon.


June 22 to July 22 – “Women’s Work” – group exhibit – Sue Thomas, Jillian Mayne, Colleen Clancy, and Ann McIvor

July 16 – Acrylic workshop

July and August – Teas on the Terrace – Tickets available now

July and August – Children’s Summer Art Camps

Sept. 17 – Giant Book Sale – Athletic Hall

Nov. 6 – Celtic Chaos performs – Tickets on sale now

Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email:

Artart exhibitPort Alberni

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