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‘We are all related’: Spiritual elder Philip Cote uses art to tell Indigenous stories – CityNews Toronto



June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians — Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomers — to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Throughout the month of June, CityNews will profile Indigenous people, and share their stories and voices, so that we can celebrate the difference they have made in their communities and to our country.

June 15: Today, we celebrate Philip Cote

Philip Cote is a Young Spiritual Elder, Indigenous artist, activist, educator, historian and traditional wisdom keeper. He is a member of Moose Deer Point First Nation: Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi, and Ojibway. Cote received his Indigenous name Noodjmowin (The Healer) in 1979 from Joe Couture, an Indigenous pioneer in his own right.

Cote explains that as a Young Spiritual Elder he has “a deep understanding of our Indigenous cosmology and ceremonial protocols. I bring understanding to those who seek spiritual advice and I am gifted to see and connect people to their Indian names and colours.”

As an Indigenous painter and muralist, the purpose of Cote’s research is to unearth, and reveal, his cultural experience and knowledge of signs of Indigenous symbols, language and interpretation. He believes it is important to share his knowledge both orally and through his art.

“I felt proud about being ‘Indian’ for the first time.”

“Something my father showed me one Sunday afternoon that changed me. He was reading the paper and there was an article about Norval Morrisseau, the painter, and I asked my father who he was. He said he was one of us and I knew he meant — an Indian — and I felt proud about being ‘Indian’ for the first time. It was this moment that drives my work, giving me a sense of pride and unity. This seed was planted in my psyche. At that time in my life it was all I had and I knew later on telling Indigenous stories was a part of painting. I started to look into our Indigenous culture for stories transforming my art into a long forgotten lexicon of storytelling.”

Cote utilizes multiple platforms to educate both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

When asked about what he hopes people will learn about Indigenous people, he said: “My main thoughts are that the Indigenous stereotypes that most people rely on is wiped away, and in its place our Indigenous narrative about our culture, cosmology, history, language and technology that prevail — as this is the only way for indigenous people to have equity in this country.”

“Our portrait has been painted by colonization — the likeness of a beggar, uneducated and without civilized belief systems, with a bounty on our heads to show our worth. This changed when in the 1960s famed Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau brought our culture, cosmology and history into the 20th century and began an art movement that inspires identity and an indigenous narrative that breaks open the colonial iceberg. My work continues this idea of the living Indigenous narrative in art through an Indigenous lens.”

Cote has painted many murals that can be seen across Ontario, many of them in the City of Toronto. Cote has won awards from the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas for his street murals.

“Nindinawemaaganidok — which means ‘all my relations,’ which means we are all related.”

He said he is most proud of his recent mural called “The Original Family” at Dundas and Jarvis streets.

Philip Cote’s “The Original Family” mural at Dundas and Jarvis streets in a supplied photo.

Philip Cote’s “The Original Family” mural at Dundas and Jarvis streets in a supplied photo.

“Looking up five stories and 120 feet across to see the first-man and first-women with the iconic animals of this territory and a Thunderbird showing the essence of our culture — a tease if you will, the beginning of our story of the Anishinaabe ‘From Wence Lowered The Male of The Species.’ This shows the beginning of our nation, history, culture, narrative and a continuation of the way in which our ancestors communicated across time.

“This work and all my public works continue a long history of rock art called pictographs. With these depictions our ancestors celebrated our local heroes and warned when danger was near, shared cosmology and spoke of great wars between the spirit world and the physical world and these images crisscrossed the land as my work crisscrosses Toronto telling our story of the original people reclaiming our voice on this land once again.”

Click here to learn more about Cote and to see examples of his work.

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Quarantine self portraits provide personal, humourous reopening at Art 1274 Hollis –




While venues were closed due to COVID-19, many creative artists used the tools available to them to stay connected to their audiences.

Musicians shared their gifts with the world via live online concerts, comedians did standup from their living rooms and backyards and filmmakers posted shorts about their experiences on YouTube.

But for talented artisans who sculpt three-dimensional objects that have to be seen in the real world to truly be truly enjoyed and experienced, being creative during quarantine meant there would be a bit of hang time before they could display their work.

Now that doors are reopening and exhibits are reappearing, Halifax co-operative gallery Art 1274 Hollis asked its members to contribute self-portraits that reflect their experiences over the past four months. With 23 local artists and artisans working in everything from paint and pottery to folk art and hooked rugs, the co-op’s The Isolation Project — Self-Reflection contains a multitude of interpretations and each has a unique personal touch.

‘It’s all about the giggle’

Ceramics artist Naomi Walsh calls her baked and glazed clay still life Got a Job Needs Doing, which reflects her position as the co-op’s gallery manager — “I’m the one who buys the toilet paper and the hand sanitizer” — and her love of home renovation and gardening.

The piece is a collection of ceramic versions of items like a can of paint with brushes, a cordless drill and a pair of garden shears, that shows her skill as well as her sense of humour.

“I don’t do people, never mind myself,” laughs Walsh over creating a self-portrait with household objects.

“I love doing miniatures of real things. I’ve done harbours and fishing boats, using hairnets for scallop nets, and I just love that kind of stuff. So I had a lot of fun with this project, it made me giggle, and it’s all about the giggle.”

In a normal year Art 1274 Hollis would be having monthly openings starting on April 1 with featured artists and a party for anybody and everybody who wants to drop by and see new works and have a snack or two.

Upcycling welding artist Al Hattie poses with his quarantine self-portrait work at Art 1274 Hollis Gallery as part of The Isolation Project opening on Wednesday afternoon. The lively co-operative gallery offers both fine art and fine craft with ever-changing new work in paintings, jewellery, pottery, ceramic art, folk art, rug hooking and more. - Eric Wynne
Upcycling welding artist Al Hattie poses with his quarantine self-portrait work at Art 1274 Hollis Gallery as part of The Isolation Project opening on Wednesday afternoon. The lively co-operative gallery offers both fine art and fine craft with ever-changing new work in paintings, jewellery, pottery, ceramic art, folk art, rug hooking and more. – Eric Wynne

With Wednesday’s opening of The Isolation Project, the gallery near Hollis and Morris streets is currently open noon to 4 p.m. daily, with up to four viewers allowed in at any time and the wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizer strongly encouraged.

“We were closed for so long, and one of our members had the wonderful idea of reintroducing ourselves to a) the general public and b) our loyal followers by doing self-portraits,” says Walsh.

“Well, that’s all well and good if you paint, but there’s a lot of us who made 3D things, there are jewelry makers, there’s Al (Hattie) with his metalwork, there are potters … but then I realized, it doesn’t have to actually look like me, does it?

“So I put a spin on it by making it something that represents how I think of myself and how I identify myself. So a lot of us ran with that idea.”

Self portrait in spoons

Al Hattie’s version of himself shows a miniature version of the metalworking artisan at his workbench creating something new out of dining utensils, and the artist himself is represented by a few spoons with forks for hands, wrapped in cloth.

“I made a replica of my welder, and the little gas tank is a CO2 cartridge from my old BB gun, and the gauge is actually a meat thermometer,” says Hattie. “All my art is made from found or recycled objects, metal mostly now.”

He jokes that he started making art from found objects when his wife asked him to clean out the garage one day, and he’s been combing through thrift stores and antique shops for materials ever since.

He started selling items at local markets, and eventually graduated from making items out of old tires and lawn art out of large pieces of disused metal into assembling more detailed pieces with utensils and smaller ingredients. It was these items which caught Walsh’s eye, and led her to extend an invitation to Hattie to join Art 1274 Hollis.

“I feel pretty privileged to be part of it, because the talent that’s in there is amazing. Some of them have been doing it longer than I’ve been alive, they’re very experienced and quite well-known,” says Hattie, who hopes coming out of COVID-19 hibernation will inspire more people to visit local independent galleries, either to buy or just to browse.

“Art galleries like ours are free to visit, people keep forgetting that. You can go and view talent, and everybody’s welcome.”

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Organizers hope art tour will encourage people to visit downtown Sudbury –



A Sudbury art event is being reimagined this summer due to the pandemic and an organizer says she hopes the changes will bring more people downtown.

The Downtown Sudbury Art Crawl is usually a one-day event with food, wine and art displays in local businesses. Between 600 and 700 people usually go downtown to take part.

But due to the pandemic, organizers have had to make a few changes. One change is that the event is taking place over the next four weeks instead of one day.

Artist and organizer of the event Monique Legault says the artwork is on display in store windows that are lit up at night.

“The idea is we’re trying to get people to come out downtown on their own time and take a look at the outdoor gallery,” she said.

Legault says they first started organizing the event, the goal was to get 40 businesses and 40 artists on board. In the end, they got 40 businesses and 56 artists involved.

“They’ve outdone themselves,” she said.

“They’re giving us the best pieces they have. A lot of the art shows that were happening this year didn’t get to happen. So we’re getting to show off some of the best things our city has to offer right now.”

Monique Legault is an artist and organizer of the Downtown Sudbury Art Crawl. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

During previous years, people have been able to purchase the art onsite. This year, Legault says a website has been created for that.

“You can actually bid on the art that you see displayed every week,” she said. “Ten pieces per week are going up for auction for four weeks running.”

Legault says she hopes the event will help both artists and business owners.

The downtown Sudbury Art Crawl usually draws hundreds of people to businesses where artwork is on display, usually in a single day. It looks different this summer, but people will still have the chance to check out local art. The event has been stretched out over four weeks this time around. Monique Legault is the event organizer. She explained how this edition of the art crawl will work. 5:34

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Let's Talk Trash: Fun for faeries; nature-based trail art – Powell River Peak



“Come on kids, let’s go litter in the woods,” said no one ever.

Still, though, sometimes we can’t see the litter for the trees when we encourage placing plastic tokens on trails. Rather than being a party pooper for well-intended traditions like this, why not give them an upgrade?

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If you’ve ever wandered the forest with little ones, you may have had to gear down your pace, taking lots of snacks and bathroom breaks. These are great moments to sit trailside and have meaningful conversations about the cycle of nature.

The forest floor is a perfect example of compost in the making, where leaves, cones and other organic debris break down into food for the next generation. If the children (or you) are still too tired to move another step, how about integrating an art break?

You can gather forest treasures and fashion a sweet little creature from moss, bark, rocks, and imagination, or a little faerie home, even bringing up some wildcrafted flowers from home to beautify.

Even grownups love nature-based art. If you’ve never witnessed the creations of Andy Goldsworthy, hold everything and get googling. All of his sculptures are made using objects found in nature, such as icicles, slate, worm-eaten leaves and tannin-dyed twigs.

Goldsworthy even went to the lengths of intentionally building them in places where they would be broken down by changing tides, the flow of a river, or the increasing temperatures of sunrise. His film, Rivers and Tides, is well worth the mesmerizing watch some evening after all your forest adventuring. 

Getting out onto our local trails has never been more encouraged, and adding to their magic with gnome homes and leaf-skirted twig faeries could become addictive.

If you are keen to keep moving instead of pausing to create, you can gather a few forest tokens for a home crafting project. Play with natural adhesives, like sap and tension, and enjoy the temporal nature of your creations as they return to whence they came.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program. For more information, email or go to

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