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Spirit Song Festival’s 10th edition brings communities together through art, storytelling

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From left to right: Sarah Prosper, a Mi’kmaq dancer and artistic director from Eskasoni, First Light resource program co-ordinator Kathy Walsh, Eastern Owl member Rebecca Sharr, First Light executive director Stacey Howse, Eastern Owl drummer Jenelle Duval and Mi’kmaq visual artist Meagan Musseau. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

After strutting down a red carpet and snapping pictures with friends, Mi’kmaq visual artist Meagan Musseau watched a digital art display she curated come to life in front of a room full of people.

But for Musseau, the evening was about more than the art display. It was a chance to come together as a community and celebrate Indigenous voices and culture.

“It made me feel really proud to just feel that elevation and to feel that presence, and to feel so many ancestors in the room,” said Musseau. “It felt good.”

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The Spirit Song Festival — which began as a small event in St. John’s in 2013 — is back in the city for its 10th edition. This year’s festival is a weeklong celebration, with events happening throughout downtown St. John’s until Saturday.

The festival opened Sunday with a digital art exhibition featuring the work of five Indigenous artists from across the province. The exhibition, called Heart of the Root, consisted of five documentary-style videos showcasing each artist working in their own creative space in their hometowns.

 

Spirit Song Festival kicks off 10th anniversary

 

The festival’s opening event featured a red carpet and a digital art exhibition showcasing the work of five Indigenous artists from across the province.

“A lot of times as artists, we’re having to travel to the urban centre,” said Musseau. “So I wanted to flip that and travel to the artists.”

The videos played simultaneously on five separate projectors, allowing guests to walk to each screen to learn more about the art being created.

“It makes me so happy because it looks like a big storybook,” said Musseau. “And the storybook … it’s rooted by love and it’s grounded by love.”

A woman in a dress poses for the camera on a red carpet.
Guests had the chance to strut down the red carpet and get their picture taken at the Spirit Song Festival’s opening event. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Art as a way to build community

In one of the videos, Inuk artist Monika Rumbolt taught audiences about caribou tufting, which she says is now considered an endangered practice. But she says the exhibit allowed her to pass on this traditional knowledge to others, including Indigenous youth.

“This festival is so much more than exhibitions,” said Rumbolt, who’s from southern Labrador. “It is the creation of community.”

A woman in a beige jacket crouches on the ground to watch a documentary, with other audience members standing behind her.
The digital art exhibition, called Heart of the Root, featured five documentary-style videos showcasing different artists working in their own creative spaces in their hometowns. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Rumbolt says the exhibit was also a great way to teach people about Labradorian art and artists. She said immersing oneself in art is a way to understand and appreciate what communities and people are experiencing.

“Art is not just art, it is a platform for advocacy,” said Rumbolt. “And it’s just a beautiful way to start reconciliation.”

When Megan Samms saw her art displayed on a projector screen, she says she didn’t feel any nerves because she was surrounded by such a warm community.

Monika Rumbolt, an Inuk artist from southern Labrador, teaches audiences about caribou tufting in a video featured at the Spirit Song Festival opening event. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

“This is such a cosy family-driven festival, and with all the five films being shown at once, these are my kin and neighbours showing at the same time,” said Samms, who is a natural dyer and handweaver based in Codroy Valley.

“So there was comfort there and familiarity, relationality. So I didn’t feel nervous. I felt proud of everybody and I thought they did beautiful work.”

Weeklong festivities

Other events taking place throughout the week include live music performances and panel discussions, a dance party and ulu-making workshops hosted by Mina Campbell.

Campbell taught audiences how to make an ulu during Sunday’s exhibition as one of the featured artists. She began making ulus — knives traditionally used by Inuit women for cutting and skinning animals — around three years ago when the pandemic began.

A knife in the shape of a semi-circle stands on a piece of wood beside a sign that reads, ulu made by Mina Campbell.
Mina Campbell, an Inuk artist from Labrador, will teach people how to make an ulu during ulu making workshops throughout the week. Campbell says an ulu is a knife traditionally used by Inuit women for cutting and skinning animals. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Campbell said it was a thrill to see her work displayed on the screen.

“It was pretty exciting and scary, but exciting and fun.”

Musseau has participated in the Spirit Song Festival for the last four to five years, and says she’s happy to see how the event has grown over time.

“In terms of an Indigenous arts festival, coming out of the Atlantic region, this is what’s up,” said Musseau. “It feels so good to have participated and also witnessed that growth and to see so much presence and so much attendance.”

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Combine Art Fair Returns to Griffin Art Projects for Its Second Year

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Glenn Lewis, Photograph of Marilyn Monroe #2, Taken in 1953. Printed by Taki Bluesinger, signed and dated by the artist. Copyright stamp on reverse. Ilford Galerie fibre paper, archival finish, 20×16″, $800

Combine Art Fair returns to North Van’s Griffin Art Projects for the second year, December 8-11. Participating galleries include Vancouver-based Unit 17, Mónica Reyes Gallery, Wil Aballe Projects and – all the way from Montreal – first-timers, Galerie Hugues Charbonneau. Another new addition: a book fair where you can peruse exhibition catalogues, limited publications, and more.

The aim of this boutique fair is to offer fresh perspectives on contemporary art and collecting – whether you’re a veteran art collector or are simply interested in art and considering buying your first piece. Combine is a chance to view work by emerging and established artists, and chat with the gallerists who represent them.

Expect to see work by Inuk artist, Shuvinai Ashoona (whose work was at this year’s Venice Biennale), emerging artist, Manuel Mathieu (his new solo show opens in Miami next year), Métis artist and writer, Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill (recent exhibitions include at the Venice Biennale and The Museum of Modern Art in New York), and Governor General Award winner, Glenn Lewis; plus Chantal Gibson, Maggee Day, and many more.

Sure, you can visit these galleries anytime (although it’s a bit more of a trek to visit Galerie Hugues Charbonneau), but the nice thing about the art fair format is that it allows you to visit all five galleries in one go, while also meeting the gallerists and asking questions in a convivial environment. In fact, they encourage it!

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Participating galleries will be exhibiting a diverse range of work from their artists. However, we asked each Vancouver-based gallery to name just one work they’ll be showing (around the $1000 price point), as well as one tip for first-time art fair goers. (What’s “okay” to ask? What’s not “okay”?) Read on to find out…

Wil Aballe, Director, WAAP

For his recommendation, Aballe shares that he will have a suite of 11 vintage prints of Marilyn Monroe, taken in 1953 by Glenn Lewis, for $800 each (an example of one is pictured above).

“So the story goes, Glenn, who is now 87 and a Governor-General Award winner, was in his last year in high school at the time, working as a dishwasher in the kitchen of the Banff Springs Hotel. He had just received his first ever camera, a brownie, gifted by his mother. Marilyn was filming, and the day before the photographs were taken, she stepped in a gopher hole and injured her ankle. These photos were taken the next day on her day off, but oddly the pictures feature a Mountie, Marilyn in a canoe, and Mt Rundle in the background. These fibre prints are the last that Glenn and I are aware of to be available; so while theoretically printed in an edition of 75, there are much fewer copies out there and these are the last few. In the mid-20th century, many vintage photographs by well known photographers are open editions and these have not affected the value they can have, as collectors mostly care about whether the print was signed/stamped and printed within the artist’s lifetime.”

Tip for the first time fair-goer:

“To not be intimidated, and to look with curiosity and use the opportunity of Combine to get the broadest sense of what art can be. I am open to any questions anyone sincerely wants to know about, so ask away!”

Terrence P.R. Turner, Wish Me Luck (fingers crossed), Black powder coated cut-out aluminum wall sculpture, 12×5.5 ×1/8″, Edition of 25, $950

Mónica Reyes Gallery is thrilled to be bringing this artwork – a wall sculpture by Terrence Turner – to the fair, that is both fun and affordable.

Tip for the first time fair-goer:

“Ask where the artist is from, or how old are they, as these questions help us tell the viewer more in terms of the artist’s CV — whether or not they are up-and-coming, where they have studied, and what shows they have been included in that may be helping their careers and notoriety. “What’s the inspiration behind the work?” is also a very good question to ask.”
“I can only think of one question [not to ask]: “Are you the artist?” This is a solid no-no. We are the art dealers that represent the artists; we are the ones who exhibit their works, take them on the road, connect them with our audience, and help them place their work in private, corporate and institutions at large. Our role is different.”

Tobin Gibson, Director, Unit 17

Tristan Unrau, Idol 2, 2021, Bronze, 9×5×9cm, Edition of 3, $1,500 (excluding hand painted, modular plinth)

While most works on view from major museum artists including Anne Low, Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, and Tristan Unrau, range from $6,000-$30,000, there will be a gem of a bronze sculpture on view by Unrau from the artist’s 2021 exhibition at Unit 17, False Idols.

Tip for the first time fair-goer:

“This fair is unlike any other, in that it’s a boutique event. I would say to people who are not used to fairs to take a chance and ask the pressing questions that come to mind. All gallerists are extremely approachable and interested in conversation with a range of participants in the visual arts. Also, look at the didactic information. It can give a lot of information without needing to ask a question, persay. Another tip is to always inquire about a payment plan. Galleries more than ever are open to accepting sales that are paid out each month over a set period of time.”


While visiting Combine at the Griffin Projects Residency space, be sure to pop in next door to Griffin’s main exhibition space to see Allegories of the Present, by renowned visual artist, Stan Douglas, who represented Canada at this year’s Venice Biennale, (closing Dec. 11, 2022). The exhibition brings together photographic works from the 1990s to the present, primarily concerned with architectural and social spaces, to produce what Douglas calls, ‘allegories of the present.’ Guided tours led by Griffin Art Projects’ Indigenous Curatorial Assistant, Emmett Hanly, take place on Sunday afternoons. Sign up here.


Combine Art Fair dates and hours:

Thursday, Dec. 8 | 5-7pm, followed by a public opening reception from 7-9pm
Fri-Sun, Dec. 9-11 | 12-5pm
Admission is free.


Griffin Art Projects Residency
1180 Welch St.
Griffin Art Projects
1174 Welch Street, North Vancouver

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Artists have until December 15 to apply for City of Peterborough’s indoor-outdoor public art project

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Inside the Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre, one of the municipal facilities where two-dimensional public art installations will be located in the City of Peterborough Public Art Program's "Indoor-Outdoor: The Public Art for Public Facilities Project." (Screenshot of City of Peterborough virtual tour)
Inside the Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre, one of the municipal facilities where two-dimensional public art installations will be located in the City of Peterborough Public Art Program’s “Indoor-Outdoor: The Public Art for Public Facilities Project.” (Screenshot of City of Peterborough virtual tour)

Peterborough-area artists have until next Thursday (December 15) to submit their proposals for two-dimensional public art installations at municipal facilities across the city.

“Indoor-Outdoor: The Public Art for Public Facilities Project,” administered through the City of Peterborough Public Art Program, is a two-stage public art project that will integrate artwork created by local artists into city parks, recreation facilities, and City Hall. The indoor stage of the project will be completed in early 2023, with the outdoor stage completed later in the year.

For the indoor stage of the project, the city is seeking original new, recent, or past artworks that will be installed and displayed for a year to 18-month term at either City Hall, the Kinsmen Civic Centre, the Healthy Planet Arena, or the Sport and Wellness Centre. The artworks will rotate between sites at the end of the first and each subsequent term.

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The intention of the project is to enrich these public spaces and people’s exposure to art by bringing art to places where people frequent. The indoor artworks will be mounted in the main foyers of each facility and will be among the first things visitors see upon entering.

Artworks envisioned for each space will help create an inviting atmosphere where visitors will feel comfortable playing, exercising, and gathering. Artworks should also speak in some way to the spirit of sport and consider the inherent relationship between beauty and skill.

All submissions must be completed online by 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 15th. Successful artists will be notified in early January, with art to be delivered and installed by early February.

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The call for submissions is open to professional artists and cultural practitioners living in the City of Peterborough, the County of Peterborough, and Hiawatha and Curve Lake First Nations. A selection committee will discuss each submission and select four artworks based on artistic merit, relevance, and feasibility.

The commission value for each artwork is $4,500.

For more information including submission guidelines and to apply, visit peterborough.ca/publicart.

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Our Land, Our Art – Musée canadien de la nature

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New exhibition reveals the beauty of Nunavik inspired by the collections of Avataq Cultural Institute

Ottawa, December 1, 2022— A new exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature reveals perspectives on Quebec’s Nunavik region through the works of Inuit artists—each inspired by their deep connection to nature and their home communities.

Our Land, Our Art was developed by the Avataq Cultural Institute, based in Inukjuak, Nunavik, and in Montreal, with the support of the museum. It opens to the public on December 2, 2022 and will remain on view until October 2024.

“We are honoured to present this latest exhibition in our Northern Voices Gallery, a space curated by northern communities that is dedicated to their art, culture and relationship to the land,” says Dr. Danika Goosney, museum President and CEO. “We look forward to sharing the rich heritage of Nunavik through the perspectives of the artists who were inspired by the Avataq Cultural Institute’s collections.”

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Presented in English, French and Inuktitut, Our Land, Our Art features original and varied forms of artworks, including photography, visual art, performance art, and throat singing. Each piece or installation reveals the artist’s strong relationship to the land.

Rhoda Kokiapik, Avataq Cultural Institute’s Executive Director, says: “This exhibition is an unprecedented opportunity for us to reach Canadian and international visitors at the Canadian Museum of Nature through this special project that shows the talent of our artists. Our relationship with the land is central to their creative process and it is something we can all relate to.”

The artists are Qumaq M. Iyaituk and Passa Mangiuk (drawings); Lucasi Kiatainaq (photography and video); Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik (throat singing); Taqralik Partridge (beadwork and visual art) and Tupiq A.C.T. (circus performers).

Qumaq M. Iyaituk and her sister, Passa Mangiuk, grew up in Ivujivik, and are inspired by the themes of family, community, and the land. Their three drawings depict a motorized canoe and a qamutiq (dog sled), which have traditionally been important means of transportation.

Photographs and a video (That Spring feeling) by Lucasi Kiatainaq from Kangiqsujuaq reveal moments in Inuit life. Inspired by Nunavik’s land and animals, Lucasi has spent many hours camping and hunting with his father, learning from his wealth of experience, and deepening his connection with nature.

Artwork by Taqralik Partridge, a visual and spoken-word artist from Kuujjuaq who now lives in Ottawa, features a large beaded amautik (woman’s parka). Inspired by themes of the environment and ancestral connections to the land, her work addresses life in the North as well as in southern urban centres.

In a special tupiq (tent) installation, a video introduces Nunavik’s first professional circus troupe: Tupiq A.C.T. Created in 2018, the troupe has members from across Nunavik, as well as the Greater Montreal Area. Their circus creations are inspired by oral stories from their ancestors, the land, and the language. The creation in Our Land, Our Art is inspired by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

An installation featuring throat singers Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik honours women and their connection to the land. By standing within two hanging felt pods, visitors can enjoy the unique sounds of the duo’s throat singing. Embroidered on the felt are traditional tattoo patterns, or tunniit, designed by Evie. The two women have performed together for many years, contributing to the revitalization of the Nunavik style of katajjaniq (throat singing).

The exhibition also features 32 traditional objects, artworks, and artifacts from the Avataq Cultural Institute’s collections, which provided inspiration to the artists.

Among them are artifacts that were used by Early Inuit 800 to 350 years ago: a pana (snow-knife blade) and panak (knife handle), both made of walrus ivory; a cooking pot called an ukkusik, a qulliq (oil lamp) made of soapstone, and a wooden figure possibly used as a doll. Dating back 350 to 50 years ago is a selection of Inuit objects, such as igaak (snow goggles), a nariarsaq (fishing lure), an ajaqaq game of skill using a wooden rod and seal bone (similar to a cup-and-ball game), as well as contemporary carvings.

Our Land, Our Art will be on view until October 2024 and is included with museum admission. The Northern Voices Gallery is located within the museum’s Canada Goose Arctic Gallery. The Canadian Museum of Nature is located at 240 McLeod St., Ottawa. (at Metcalfe St.). Visit the Museum at nature.ca and follow it on these social media channels: Twitter.com/museumofnature, Instagram.com/museumofnature, facebook.com/canadianmuseumofnature and LinkedIn.

Interesting facts:

  • More than12,000 Inuit live in Nunavik—60% of whom are younger than 30. Inuktitut is the main language spoken.
  • Nunavik includes 14 villages along the coasts of northern Quebec. The region covers 507 000 sq. km and accounts for a third of Quebec’s total area.
  • Ancestors of today’s Inuit, the Early Inuit (also called Thule Inuit), migrated to the Eastern Arctic around 800 years ago. Their culture emerged in the Bering Strait region of Alaska.
  • Early Inuit were specialized in hunting large whales. They travelled across long distances by umiaq (large skin boat), qajaq (kayak) and qamutik (dog sled).
  • In summer, Early Inuit lived in tupiit (skin tents) and in winter, qarmait (semi-subterranean sod houses) or igluit (snow houses).
  • Katajjaniq is the Nunavik style of throat singing. An old Inuit tradition, throat singing is mostly a women’s practice. It often refers to familiar sounds (from animals, nature elements, or women’s tools) that provide a connection to the land.

About Avataq Cultural Institute
Avataq Cultural Institute provides a strong foundation for the living culture of today’s Inuit. Since its inception in 1980, Avataq has built a solid reputation as the cultural leader for Nunavik Inuit and as an important resource for Inuit culture in Canada and beyond. Our goal is to ensure that Inuit culture and language continue to thrive into the future, so that our descendants can benefit from the rich heritage passed down to us through the wisdom of our ancestors.


About the Canadian Museum of Nature

Saving the world through evidence, knowledge and inspiration! The Canadian Museum of Nature provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature’s past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a collection of 14.6 million specimens and artifacts, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site, nature.ca.


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