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A grant from the Arts Board helped a Prince Albert gallery promote northern Indigenous artists.
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A Prince Albert gallery held a month-long showcase of nine northern Saskatchewan Indigenous artists in December, featuring diverse artwork such as painting, beading, carving, birch bark biting, rock art and dream catchers.

“For the Woodland Cree people, art has always traditionally been an integral part of our lives, including making tools, dwellings and clothing, which were all designed and decorated to show honour to both our people and our environment,” says Gordon Dupre, director of the On the Avenue Art Gallery.

The gallery is a space for Prince Albert and northern artists to showcase their talents. Dupre visits communities in the north to meet artists and determine the barriers they face to making and selling their art. The gallery gives them small grants to purchase supplies, such as paint and paint brushes or beads and hide, then displays and sells the resulting work.

The exhibition culminated with a reception, complete with traditional food, such as bannock and jam and Labrador tea, where members of the community were invited to meet the artists. Throughout the month, artists were also featured with live art demonstrations and “meet the artist” events.

The exhibition was supported by a Micro-Grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, which helped to cover costs such as artist fees and travel from northern communities. Sales from the exhibition provided much needed revenue for artists. “It is important to us to support the creation, production and presentation of artistic practices of our Indigenous artists,” Dupre says.

Sales were brisk. “We are very excited about how things went for the artists. There is so much interest in traditional handcrafted items – the beading, moccasins, birch baskets – we could hardly keep them in stock. By the end of the Christmas season, we were out of most of those items. This is definitely something the consumer wants.”

The exhibition also raises the profile of northern artists in the community. “Showcasing a variety of artists increases the public’s overall knowledge of the type of traditional and mainstream arts that are done by the Indigenous community and what is available here in Saskatchewan.”

The featured artists were:

Buck Nelson, carving, La Ronge

Sally Milne, birch bark biting, Stanley Mission

Mackenzie May Dupre, painting, Prince Albert

Caroline Ross, beading and hides, La Ronge

Molly Roseanne Ratt, painting, La Ronge

James McDonnell, painting, Air Ronge

Amber Dawn Bear, dreamcatchers, Prince Albert

Danielle Jordan Poulin, painting and rock art, Prince Albert

John Halkett, painting, La Ronge

For more about On the Avenue Art Gallery, visit their Facebook page

Photos of exhibition courtesy of On the Avenue Gallery