Mix of contemporary, historical Indigenous craftwork in Winnipeg exhibit shows art ‘still living and thriving’
A new exhibit in Winnipeg blends the old with the new to show that while Indigenous craftwork has a rich history, it’s also still very much a living artform.
The exhibit, called Gathering, features Indigenous beadwork, embroidery and quillwork from five contemporary artists alongside pieces from the collections of 11 Manitoba museums — with some items dating back to the 1800s.
Mixing contemporary pieces in with the historical ones is an important element of the exhibit, says Margaret Firlotte, a Red River Michif artist and the exhibit’s project manager.
“This art form is not gone, it’s not archaic, it’s not archived. It’s still living and thriving today,” she said.
The exhibit — presented by the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library in partnership with the Ross House Museum — also offers a rare opportunity to see some of the historical work on display.
Smaller museums in Manitoba often have Indigenous craftwork that’s not on permanent display, or which requires a one-on-one appointment to view, Firlotte said.
“We wanted to honour those pieces, and bring them to light, and just give them the proper space and respect that they deserve.”
Andrea Reichert, the exhibit’s curator, said an important part of the outreach for it included informal viewing sessions of the pieces for Indigenous communities.
“It was an opportunity for them to see it up close, to compare things side by side,” she told CBC.
Preparation for the exhibit began about a year ago, but Firlotte said she wouldn’t call her work on it a “labour of love.”
“Labour is the wrong word, because if you enjoy beadwork, working alongside with these pieces and with the communities, then it’s not really work,” she said.
Putting the exhibit together involved extensive research and outreach to museums and Indigenous communities in western and northern Manitoba.
Artwork from museums in Dauphin, Portage la Prairie, Souris, The Pas and Winnipegosis is displayed in the exhibit, alongside works from several Winnipeg museums.
The exhibit, which opened on March 3, has drawn visitors from Alberta and British Columbia who came just to see the artwork, along with strong local support, said Firlotte.
“Opening night, just seeing the community come together to welcome and celebrate these pieces, it was really great. It just made it all worth it, for sure.”
Exhibit may help put names to work
The exhibit is the first time Tashina Houle-Schlup’s work has been displayed in an art show. Her quilled moccasins are called Abinoojiiyens Makizinan, which translates to “baby moccasins” in Anishinaabemowin.
The Ebb and Flow First Nation member has been making quillwork since she was a child. She began to sell her pieces as a teenager, but never imagined being featured in an art exhibit.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling and it makes me want to do more of these,” she said.
The mix of contemporary and historical pieces in the exhibit shows that Indigenous crafts aren’t going anywhere, Houle-Schlup told CBC.
“Quillwork is still thriving. There was a point where quillwork was nearly disappearing.”
Her moccasins were made in honour of Indigenous children, “as they are the future of our people,” says Houle-Schlup’s artist statement, as well as in “remembrance of our babies and children that were lost to residential school.”
Reichert says in addition to offering historical perspective, the exhibit may also help curators learn more about some of the pieces.
The names of the artists behind many of the historical pieces — such as an embroidered smoked-hide jacket made by women from Norway House between 1910 and 1920 — have been lost, which is not uncommon, Reichert said.
QR codes are displayed throughout the exhibit that will let people submit any information they may have on the historical pieces or the artists behind them.
“When the works go back to the different museums, the research that we’ve collected will go back to those museums as well,” said Reichert.
“Reconciliation and decolonization is an important part of the museum community, and being able to interpret the works with correct information is a really important first step.”
Public programming and a long-term website with photos and research collected on the pieces are also part of the exhibit.
The exhibit has a particular focus on pieces made before or around the early 1900s, because the artistic patterns from that era contain many cultural, familial and regional ties, according to Firlotte.
“You’re able to tell which pattern comes from which community, which is really cool,” she said. “You’re able to tell if a piece is probably more Métis than it is Dakota, or if it’s Cree or Anishinaabe.”
Response to the exhibit has been fantastic, said Reichert.
“All of the people who come have just been blown away by the work, and the breadth of it, and seeing it all in one place.”
Gathering is on display at the C2 Centre for Craft at 329 Cumberland Ave. until April 29.
Arts in the Garden brings a visual feast to the North Shore
Ask any creative what qualifies as art and they will tell you that art is multifaceted, spanning everything from music and performance to paintings, sculpture, sketch and – to some especially green-thumbed creatives – a meticulously curated garden.
This weekend gardens across the North Shore celebrated all things aesthetically pleasing for Arts in the Garden, a community event that fuses all facets of artistic creation by putting together visual artists, musicians and live performers in the same space.
The annual event, presented by North Van Arts, comprised 13 blooming gardens that traversed themes from ‘engaging’ – a garden with thought-provoking artwork and an active garden with bubbling ponds – to ‘connected’ – another filled with interconnected, meandering trails and musicians who sang on the on the healing power of trees.
“This natural environment lends itself so well to art. Galleries are very restrictive, you’re in a very sterile environment, but this inspires creativity, more authentic conversation,” said Garrett Andrew Chong, a photographer whose images had poked out from flourishing flower beds in a garden on West Vancouver’s Marine Drive.
For the artists participating, the event gave them the opportunity to get out of the stuffy confines of gallery and workspace, and allowed their wares to be viewed and appreciated by a wider audience.
“This is a really, really nice opportunity, this is a very different demographic to where I live, a much different crowd, and it means I can showcase all the different things that I work on,” said artist Emily Picard, an artist from the Sunshine Coast.
Like many of the artists participating, Picard’s creations complemented the space it inhabited. The eclectic nature of her work – Picard’s mediums span acrylic paint, spray paint, watercolour and marker pens – slotted in seamlessly to a garden that was anything but minimalistic.
Aptly categorised under “Ethereal” the North Vancouver garden, number 7 on the tour, had been like a scene from Alice’s Wonderland, complete with chandeliers hanging from the trees – 75 in total – birdcages protruding from flower beds and crystal dinnerware scattered large silvered tables.
Gardener Susan Bath, who has spent 27 years putting the outdoor scene together, said she hopes her mystical greenspace will inspire creativity within all who enter, and will encourage them to embrace whimsy in all its forms.
“I hope this shows that you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional, or be a professional, to create in this way. You don’t need a landscape artist, you don’t need money or a large garden, you just need time and a sense of playfulness,” she said, adding how most pieces had been gifted, bought from charity stores, or picked up from the side of the road.
While some gardens transported guests to Lewis Carroll lands, others set the scene for education. At Garden number 9, dubbed ‘Energized’, the LifeSpace Gardens hosted fellow green thumbs and offered tips and information on urban farming and vegetable growing.
At “Harmony”, garden number 4 on West Vancouver’s Whonoak Road, a fourteen year old food forest on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) land invited guests to learn about Indigenous plants and healing.
“This is an educational space, where people can come and pick different things that they need from our community, anytime of the year,” said Senaqwila Wyss, the garden’s host, adding how the garden is open to all who want to learn.
Wyss said the event provided the opportunity for guests to learn the names of herbs and plants in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim (Squamish language), to learn of Indigenous foods themselves – like the Indigenous wild potato wapato that has been making a comeback in local soil – and to immerse themselves in Squamish culture. Within the garden, musician Rennie Nahanee had delivered song and Squamish storytelling, talking of Elders and canoe experiences.
Whether hosting Indigenous storytelling or abstract art, each garden, said Tary Majidi, artist and host of Marine Drive’s offering, should provoke some sort of response from guests. It should inspire them to create or to engage, to connect with other people more or to just appreciate the smaller, more natural, everyday things in life.
“We could all do with getting off the internet, off social media, and going back to art and going back to the natural world, enjoying nature or clay or paint,” she said.
“If there is one thing that people should take away from this event, it’s that art can heal and that should not be overlooked,” she said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.
Bigger Art in the Park returns this weekend
Last year’s event in Windsor’s Willistead Park broke attendance records. About 40,000 people came through the gate, and sales surpassed years in the past. Event Chair Allan Kidd said one vendor had to drive home for more inventory when they sold out.
More than 250 vendors from Ontario and Quebec registered for this year’s festival. Another 20 food vendors signed up, including local beer, wine, and spirits makers.
A complimentary bike valet is new this year. Those who go will find it at the Chilver Road entrance.
Kids Zone is back with four giant inflatables, face painting, and the chance to meet some of their favourite characters.
A free shuttle service will carry festival-goers to Willistead Park from 1591 Kildare Road and the Hiram Walker parking lot on Riverside Drive at Montreuil Avenue.
Admission is $8 at the gate, but guests can buy a ticket online for $7. There is no charge for children aged 12 and under.
Art in the Park has raised $1.3-million for the Rotary Club of Windsor 1918’s restoration efforts at Willistead Manor and $2-million for local and global projects.
“Much of our community doesn’t know that Art in the Park is a fundraising event. The people who attend help us raise the funds to build schools, drill wells, and deliver books, medicine and wheelchairs at home and around the world,” said Kidd.
Art in the Park on Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Masha Titova’s “The Music of Art”
available to read in its entirety here, manage to do.t’s not often that the cover of The New Yorker, traditionally a storytelling image signed by the artist, reflects what goes on behind the scenes at the magazine—but that is what the black and copper shapes designed by Masha Titova for the cover of the June 5, 2023, Music Issue,
The first step was connecting with Titova, a Russian artist who relocated to Montenegro last year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I asked Titova to use her sense of design to orchestrate a portrayal of a variety of sounds. Titova says, “I don’t play an instrument, but I love music, especially its rhythms, which often inspire me. And when I design, I try to harmonize the various visual shapes as if they were part of a musical composition.”
Once we settled upon the image, we recorded the aural elements that make up the cover’s malleable melody. Some of our more musically adept staffers—including Nick Trautwein, a senior editor who moonlights as a saxophonist, and David Remnick, the editor, on guitar—gathered to interpret Titova’s shapes, selecting the ones they wished to play. Julia Rothchild, a managing editor, who contributed piano, viola, and voice, described the process as “an exercise in synesthesia. What sound would that square make, or those triangles? A thud, or a flutter?”
Impromptu chamber groups formed: a viola-cello duo, a vocal quintet. The musical respite in the middle of the day presented the opportunity to exercise a different kind of focus from that of closing pieces, or making fact-checking calls. The associate research director Hélène Werner, who has played the cello since she was eight years old, said, “Music set me on my way. It was the organizing principle of my childhood. . . . It demands, of those who play it and listen to it, intellectual commitment and emotional honesty. It is generous in return. There is no better teacher.” Rina Kushnir, the art director, also appreciates music for its emotive qualities, for its ability to communicate what is “not possible to express otherwise.” Liz Maynes-Aminzade, the puzzles-and-games editor, says that “drumming and writing (puzzles or otherwise) light up some of the same parts of my brain.” A unifying factor in everyone’s performance was how seriously each performer took their music. One after the other, when their turn came, they paused their casual banter, took a deep breath, played their bit, and only then rejoined the playful green-room atmosphere. It was an unplanned but perfect demonstration of all our colleagues’ marvellous dedication to all they do.
The making of a weekly magazine (or of a Web site, a radio show, a festival, any of our many undertakings) is always a concerted endeavor, but that collaboration happens behind the scenes. This multimedia project, programmed by David Kofahl, the head of the interactives department, with the help of the features editor Sam Wolson, gives a glimpse of the way the efforts of many talented individuals and departments combine to insure that The New Yorker appears on your doorstep (or in your in-box), week after week, as good as we can make it.
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