The Works Canadian Aboriginal Artists Program

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In 2009, The Works launched The Works Canadian Aboriginal Artist Program to highlight the artistic contributions that contemporary Aboriginal artists make to visual culture. Now in its third year, the program, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, has showcased the work of established, emerging, and celebrated Aboriginal artists from across the country. The artists participating in the 2011 program have been selected for their response to social and environmental issues that affect all Canadians. Each artist describes, from their perspective, some of the energies that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. 

Leah Dorion focuses on sharing and teaching the principles of Metis culture, specifically in relation to the interconnectedness of humans and nature. She invites participants to literally send their vibes out into the world in the form of beats on a powwow drum to summon the personal power to think, speak, act, and listen in Maskihkiy.

David Garneau, also Metis, explores the overlap of cultures, touching on his own family history, fleeing the Red River Resistance to come to Edmonton in the 1870s. Here, his great-great grandfather became the namesake for the Garneau district. The exhibit, Metis/Sage, is a metisage (mixing) of some of the things that make up contemporary Metis identity and experience.

Jackson 2Bears and Sonny Assu explore the aesthetics of “Aboriginal art” and uncover the effects of colonialism and discrimination on Aboriginals in Canada. 2Bears uses electronic music and DJ/VJ culture to remixe and re-appropriate indigenous identity for himself. Assu uses painting and sculpture in reflective, sometimes biting, critiques of the treatment of Aboriginal culture. 

Adrian Stimson also questions colonial stereotypes. His campy character, Buffalo Boy, is a gender-shifting parody of Buffalo Bill. Through a museum-like presentation of Buffalo Boy artifacts, Stimson questions how we see the past, and offers visitors an opportunity to be a part of “photographic history” by having their picture taken with Buffalo Boy himself between June 23 and July 1.

The Works Art & Design Festival takes place June 23 to July 5, 2011 and features 40+ exhibits and over 250 special events, performances, and workshops.