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Indigenous artist uses quills to showcase art, neurodiversity –



For some people, a porcupine quill might be something to back away from, but for Indigenous artist Vanessa Dion Fletcher, they are integral pieces to her creative – and learning – process.

A Lenape and Potawatomi neurodiverse artist, Dion Fletcher’s remarkable art is at the heart of Backwards & Forwards: Reflections in Porcupine Quills, an exhibition now on at the Aurora Cultural Centre.

Curated by Aram Han Sifuentes, Backwards & Forwards is at the centre’s temporary gallery space at Town Hall through Sept. 17.

“These works range from intimate pieces on paper to large mural installations,” says the Aurora Cultural Centre. “At the core is a negotiation between the artist’s hands and porcupine quills. She pulls them from the body of a porcupine, stains them using natural and synthetic dyes, handpicks each quill based on its colour, shape, and size, and bends them onto paper with thread. The building up of the quills form abstract shapes and lines that are elemental and can be interpreted in multiple ways, where a circle in quillwork can represent time, a colour wheel, and a portal all at once. 

“Slowness is an important political aspect of Dion Fletcher’s practice. The making is inherently slow, and the intended experience for the viewers is also slow, where one slowly follows the lines and details of the quillwork and gradations of colour. Slowness is also a reflection on neurodiversity, where ‘being slow’ is a derogatory term used for those who are neurodiverse. In emphasizing slowness through porcupine quills, Vanessa Dion Fletcher claims indigeneity in process and craft but also approaches and understandings of neurodiversity and disability.”

Bringing the show together was not a fast process for Han Sifuentes.

A Korean-American, Han Sifuentes says when Dion Fletcher asked her to curate her unique exhibition, it was a “learning curve” to gain knowledge on quillwork, but was very excited to take on the task.

“Why Vanessa asked me to be the curator is one of the conversations that I had been having within the fields of craft, being able to embrace diversity within the fields of craft and really looking at this hemisphere in northern America being able to really embrace and really do our work to honour Indigenous craft, artists and artisans,” said Han Sifuentes. “I wanted to talk about the stories and talk about the metaphor that she uses in her practice. Her work just seems really simple when you look like it in terms of the quill work but what she’s doing in the context and conversation round craft, around neurodiversity is also very strong and very powerful, so I wanted to be able to talk about all the things she is doing in her practice. 

“Being neurodiverse as well and really thinking about deconstructing the western approach to neurodiversity and really thinking about learning itself and embracing that there are many different ways to learn – that is something she really wanted to do in this work as well. She was telling me about the quill work that she was making and how a lot of it reminded her about how she was learning [the Lenape language]. For her, how she was learning it was she would have to learn the syllables forwards, then backwards, then forward again. Thinking about a lot of these spirals and circles and wheels that she’s making, I was asking her, how does one read it? I think a lot of us would read it from going around the circle clockwise but she was actually talking about the circles being really important because you can learn it backwards and forwards. That is how she was thinking how people read and approach her quillwork. You can go kind of in multiple directions. She was thinking along these lines in quillwork as storytelling and reading and how you can go in multiple directions.”

Quills as an art medium might be deceptively simple, but how they are transformed is unique, and the results intricate and spectacular.

The artist harvests the quills herself, including from porcupines that didn’t quite make it across the road, makes natural dyes from plants and other materials wherever possible, and the process to get from quill to finished artwork is both methodical and powerful.

For more information on Backwards & Forwards: Reflections in Porcupine Quills, including video Art Bytes with the artist, visit

Brock Weir is a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative reporter at The Auroran

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Youth get creative at summer art camp – Lakeland TODAY



ST. PAUL – A variety of mediums were used to create unique works of art during a week-long Youth Art Camp held at the St. Paul Visual Arts Centre, last week.

Pam Bohn, the art instructor for the art camp, said the camp gives youth the chance to not only do art but form friendships.  

“We also go outside to play and go to the park, and so it is also a day where they can make friends.”

The art camp included acrylic painting, watercolour painting, mixed media projects, and much more.

“While I facilitate the classes, [the children] are free to create as they please,” she said. “That allows those who like to do art that freedom to have different art mediums and try things that they may be unable to do at home.”

Bohn said the participating youths have enjoyed the art camps, adding, “They all get excited when they come and take their [art] home to show their parents.”

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The Hive celebrates three new exhibitions at Art Gallery of Burlington | inHalton –




Published August 15, 2022 at 2:41 pm

A special event celebrating three new exhibits is being hosted by the Art Gallery of Burlington.

The Hive is happening Saturday, Aug. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m. This free, all-ages event incorporates the organization, cooperation and energy of a beehive into an afternoon of art, activity, learning and fun.

The Hive will feature a special workshop led by Toronto’s Clay and Paper Theatre, live arts and crafts demonstrations, a screen-printing presentation, live performance, food and drink.

The event is being held in celebration of the AGB’s three new fall exhibitions:

  • The Future of Work, an exploration into how the pandemic has affected labour markets and our quality of life
  • ਨਜਰ ਨਾ ਲੱਗੇ/Nazar na lage/Knock on wood, a vibrant and meaningful interpretation on the art of rangoli by artist Noni Kaur
  • Know your Place, an exhibit of cartoon-like clay sculpture that reveal the raw emotional experiences of the artist Sami Tsang

Known for work inspired by oral traditions, folk songs, poems and fables, Clay and Paper Theatre will charm participants and audiences with their original multi-disciplinary performance-based production. Guests who wish to participate with Clay and Paper Theatre should arrive early and be ready to create.

Visitors are invited to an interactive, screen-printing demonstration led by artist Jesse Purcell and are encouraged to bring any used clothing to be transformed into a bunting display to be hung in the gallery by the artist collective Works-in-Progress.

Arts Burlington will be opening its doors to guests with arts demonstrations and the Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild will guide guests through a natural plant-based dying demonstration, teaching attendees what they need to know to create from home.

The AGB parking lot will be free for the day. For more information, visit the AGB website.

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'Miyo Nepin' (Good Summer) art show brings together Indigenous talent – battlefordsNOW



“[Nordstrom] contacted the artists; I contacted some. Then, she [decided] how it would look,” Favel said.

“Miyo Nepin,” which means Good Summer, is the theme of the show.

“We just came out of the pandemic, [so] it’s a celebration of the freedom of movement, the freedom of the summer, and hopefully this freedom can stay in the future,” Favel said.

He noted the theme is essentially about the freedom from health concerns, with the hope that everyone can enjoy good health again.

“It’s a celebration of life and health,” Favel said.

Some of the artists featured in the exhibition include Carl Thunderblanket from Sweetgrass, Meryl McMaster from Red Pheasant, Greg Tootoosis from Poundmaker, Charity Boxell from Poundmaker, and Dana Standinghorn from Sweetgrass.

The curators focused on showing pieces from artists with a substantial body of work.

Favel is particularly impressed with the calibre of the artists’ projects in the show.

“We wanted to encourage, shed some light into this area of the talent that exists here,” he said. ”Hopefully, then, this work can keep going further, and their work can become more well-known provincially.”

Favel added the artists are creating pieces of a national and international quality

“If you go to any gallery in Montreal or Toronto, you would see this is the quality of work we have here.”

Favel hopes to keep putting the spotlight on many more of the Battlefords area’s talented Indigenous artists going forward as well.

“In the future, like in my Performance Arts Festival, we will just keep going, and keep growing, and keep developing. That’s our goal,” he said.

The Miyo Nepin exhibition that features more than 20 pieces is on now through Sept. 4 at Fort Battleford.

On Twitter: @battlefordsNOW

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