At Douma Alwaird’s retail shop you can find just about anything made by Yukoners – including authentic Indigenous jewelry and accessories.
Indigenous-made items are some of Alwaird’s top selling items, making her one of the go-to northern retailers for northern Indigenous artists, jewelers and crafters.
An avid collector of Indigenous art and jewelry herself, Alwaird is no stranger to the detail and time that artists pour into every piece, and believes they should be paid accordingly.
“I always felt (their work) was underpriced,” the owner of Unorthodox told APTN News.
“I felt like the artists were doing a disservice to themselves in the amount of time, effort and the materials that go into the product.”
For example, a small beaded patch by Selkirk First Nation artist Kayln Baker, who’s based in Whitehorse, costs $900; a delicate pair of caribou earrings by Maria Rose Sikyea of Copper Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories are $450; an elaborate pink beaded fireweed crown by Rayven Svendsen of Teslin Tlingit Council in the Yukon is a firm $700.
Alwaird says her pricing is not typical.
For many Indigenous artists, an all-too-common reality is their work is under-priced and undervalued – despite the amount of time and effort they dedicate to their craft.
As Alwaird began to work with more artists, she noticed a trend of lower-end prices for higher-end craftsmanship items – something she felt was unfair for the quality of work being sold at her store.
“I not only want to help (the artists that I work with) realize that their work is worth every penny that I price it at,” she said, “but that it’s also OK for them to ask a higher price for their work.”
Randi Nelson of Whitehorse is benefitting from Alwaird’s pricing first-hand.
Since she began selling some of her pieces to Unorthodox, the artist with Métis heritage raised her prices thanks to Alwaird’s encouragement.
“I worked with Douma in figuring out what my pricing would be, which was a learning curve for me,” she said.
“She helped me establish confidence in my pricing and what the fair market pricing for my materials and market share would be, so now I feel like my items are fairly priced.”
Selkirk artist Kayln Baker agrees.
“(Alwaird) has helped me as an artist realize that what I was charging before was underselling myself. It’s helped me bump up my prices to a place where I feel like they’re now fair,” she said.
Baker says Alwaird has also helped her bring in more business by connecting her with customers looking for custom work outside of the shop.
“She’s introduced me to a few clients and I was really grateful for that. I’m currently working on an order for a woman who came to her shop and asked about my stuff. I’m working on jewelry for her bridal party and the bride.”
While she’s not Indigenous herself, Alwaird grew up in northern Canada, where her mother managed a First Nation and Inuit gallery.
Alwaird said she grew up appreciating Indigenous northern art, and though she has no formal art education, she can appreciate the amount of work that goes into each piece.
“I seem to have a knack for just looking at something and knowing what I would pay for it, and I would like to think that I do have a good grip on it now,” she said.
Alwaird admits her items aren’t cheap – some pieces can be priced as high as $2,000 – but for her, they’re worth every penny.
“We put value on weird items, like Louis Vuitton purses and luxury items, so why should there be hesitation when paying a thousand dollars for a beaded purse when you drop a thousand dollars on a mass produced luxury item? I view it as art.”
Toronto's outdoor museum for street art is a perfect activity for these pandemic times – blogTO
All murals can be explored virtually on the museum’s website, which includes info about the works and artists.
It was inspired by similar public space projects in places like The Bronx and Berlin.
One of the new initiatives from the museum is an app that you can download to your phone and use to make your way among the murals, finding out information about each piece and the artists that created it as you go.
As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, finding safe, outdoor activities in Toronto is on many people’s to-do list and this outdoor museum might just be one that’s perfectly suited to the times.
Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event – Nelson Star
It took Damian John decades to realize words weren’t always the best way to connect with people.
When John was in his 20s he became woke to the problems of the world and hoped to make a change. In his 30s, having failed to make that change, he struggled with depression and anxiety.
But four years ago the now 43 year old quit his career as a massage therapist to focus on his art. That choice led to an epiphany.
“I think the dialogue that we have with words is limited. You have this understanding of words, I have an understanding of words. Sometimes they don’t match up,” he says.
“We’re really bad at telling each other what we’re feeling and we’re really bad at understanding what the other person is saying to us in general, even with people we know well. So I thought, but what about having art do that for us and being creative with how we speak to each other.”
John, a Ymir-based artist, hopes to meld words and art into a new type of conversation when he hosts a workshop for BC Culture Days on Sept. 26. Jones was the only West Kootenay artist named ambassador to the annual event, which will run Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.
His livestream is titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity, in which John plans to tell the story of how colonization affected his family and people before having participants create art based on the discussion.
A member of Tl’azt’en First Nation near Prince George, John grew up with a family traumatized by the residential school system. His father attended nearby Lejac Residential School, a Catholic-run facility that operated from 1922 to 1976.
The school is partly remembered now for being the place four boys froze to death while trying to escape from in 1937.
“All of my family on that side is directly impacted by colonization, by residential school,” said John, “and that impacts us as his children, that affects nephews and generations that are coming after us. There’s a heavy, heavy impact mentally, health wise, relationally, all of these various components which would take a long time to talk to or speak to in a real strong way.”
First Nations art has always been a part of John’s life. His father brought pieces home, and John was later influenced by artists Robert Sebastian and Roy Henry Vickers.
John’s own art is vibrant, colourful and distinctly modern. In his work he’s found a place to explore his culture and voice concerns while also being in control of the outcome in a way he never felt he could in conversation.
“If I want to have a life that has any feelings of quality to it, I need to shift things,” he says. “So making things that I think are beautiful, and allowing people to engage in that space as well, felt useful.”
That’s how he hopes the people who take his workshop feel after creating their own work. John wants to inspire new ways of discourse about difficult topics despite personal differences, and he thinks art is the key.
“How do we bridge those spaces to come to a place of community and goodwill and conflict resolution?” he says. “In spite of being devastated by all the information out there I still have hope we can do things differently.”
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Outdoor art in a concrete jungle – Excalibur Online
Shaughn Clutchey | Arts Editor
Featured Image: Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard.
Photo Credit: Excalibur
Between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building is a set of three stone blocks. Two are made of concrete, and between them is a smaller piece of black cambrian granite.
Inconspicuous in form and inviting as a spot to lean or sit between classes, these blocks are not remnants of ongoing construction or a sort of chic patio furniture. As a unit, these blocks are titled “Noire Solaire, Basse” and were commissioned by Canadian sculptor Jocelyne Alloucherie in 1993.
Jocelyne Alloucherie’s “Noire Solaire, Basse” is located between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)
“Noire Solaire, Basse” is just one installation in a collection of vibrant outdoor sculptures located across the York campus.
Although York began collecting sculptures as part of a campus beautification initiative in the early 1970s, new relevance has been given to this outdoor art collection in light of the cultural shift influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Modes of art consumption are changing—galleries, theatres, and other venues that have traditionally allowed for a direct, in-person relationship between art and audience can no longer operate in a traditional manner.
Allyson Adley is the collection and education assistant at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). With much of York’s campus being closed this semester, Adley agrees that the importance of this collection has increased as a reminder of campus community and culture.
“Engaging with artworks outdoors can be a meditative experience,” Adley explains. It can “provide students with an opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness by observing the artworks and their relationship to the surrounding landscape and architecture.”
A third-year environmental studies student at York, who wishes to remain anonymous, agrees. “I love the idea of having art exhibits on campus,” they say. “It’s important to have art that can inspire or present the opportunity to admire creativity in normally bland areas.”
Mark Di Suvero’s “Sticky Wicket” is located near the Atkinson building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)
Adley iterates that completing a self-guided tour is a useful way to explore the collection. It is also an opportunity to acquaint or reacquaint with campus.
“Following a self guided tour is an excellent way to get to know the campus and explore our outdoor collection,” Adley says.
Adley adds: “Although the tour can provide information about the artist’s interests and motivations behind the creation of a given work, students are encouraged to consider their own personal responses. What comes to mind when standing next to a work? How does the work make you feel? Instead of relying on prescribed interpretations, can you bring your own perspectives into your process of meaning making and trust your own instincts and insights?”
These interpretations and perspectives can be related to the culture and society COVID-19 has created.
One piece that stands out in this regard is Liz Magor’s “Keep,” conveying the idea of a natural retreat, particularly as a last resource. “Keep” consists of a bronze cast of a willow tree trunk with a rubber sleeping bag protruding from one end.
Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard. (Courtesy of AGYU)
“The piece speaks of the need to escape from densely inhabited urban settings and find refuge in nature,” Adley explains .
“I think in the current climate and context of the pandemic, social distancing and isolation has not been freely chosen but rather encouraged in communities across the world in an effort to protect people’s health and slow the spread of the virus.”
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