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Photo: Panelists Andre Morrisseau and Bonnie Devine

The OFIFC will be holding another event at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery on May 14, 2015, which will be an opportunity for artists to network, build new relationships, and introduce people to their work.


In March 2015, the first of two community conversation starters took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and the Ontario Arts Council (OAC).  The gathering was designed to provide a platform for artists and stakeholders to discuss ways, “to connect, collaborate, and simply celebrate what’s happening now [in Indigenous Arts], and what could be happening tomorrow”. Renee Thomas-Hill led with a traditional opening and a panel of artists and art supporters spoke about the current Indigenous arts scene. Artists, stakeholders, and allies wrapped up with a series of talking circles to engage community artists and finds ways for the OFIFC to assist movement forward for Indigenous Artists.


Sid Bobb, co-founder and co-artistic director of Aanmitaagzi, a multi-disciplinary professional artist-run company serving artists and community members from Nipissing First Nation moderated the panel. Speakers included: Penny Couchie, co-founder and co-artistic director of Aanmitaagzi, David Eddy, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS) which uses social enterprise practices to promote community economic development and who built Canada’s first Aboriginal Art Hotel and Gallery; and Andre Morriseau, a member of Fort William First Nation who has served on many boards of directors including the Ontario Arts Council, and the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

Left to Right: Panelists Paige Restoule, Penny Couchie, Andre Morrisseau, Bonnie Devine

Discussion about transformation raised concerns about barriers for established writers to obtain grants to produce new works. Many of the artists spoke about supporting one another and taking the initiative to build self-sustaining projects by working together. The afternoon panel centred on emerging artists who shared their journeys about their arts practices. Delores Chum, a leatherworker who teaches beaded moccasin-making shared about learning to facilitate moccasin-making workshops; the co-directors of Blue Earth Photography showed some of their latest works which they hope will improve the self-esteem of community members through creating positive imagery, Jayli Wolf a singer/songwriter spoke about her journey with her music; and Cass Gardiner a documentary artist, filmmaker, and photographer spoke about her experiences showing films at festivals across Canada.

Left to Right: Panelists France Trépanier and Sid Bobb

The OFIFC will be holding another event at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery on May 14, 2015, which will be an opportunity for artists to network, build new relationships, and introduce people to their work. The project coordinators hope to provide strategies, ideas, and solutions to improve the Indigenous Arts scene with innovative ways that assist in gaining exposure, increasing sales, and accessing supports for community artists.

Left to Right: Panelists Paige Restoule and Penny Couchie

Artists, participants, and attendees will have the opportunity to receive a copy of the final gathering report. Project facilitators are encouraging all artists and participants to continue the discussion in respective locations. To find out more about the project contact: Patty Chabbert at patty.chabbert[at] or call 705-358-1034

Photos by Blue Earth Photography

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About The Author

S. Amy Desjarlais

Amy Desjarlais is Ojibway/Potowotomi from Wasauksing First Nation. In 2003, Amy founded, EarthTALKER, a magazine focused on women and families. In 2008, Amy is the recipient of the FNTI/Ryerson University Practicum Award for Theory of Interconnectedness - An Indigenous perspective on political decision-making. Amy has an MA in Culture & History; her thesis, Emptying the Cup: Healing Fragmented Identity, explores an Anishinawbekwe (female) perspective on historical trauma and culturally appropriate consultation and is published by the Centre for World Indigenous Studies’ Fourth World Journal. Amy recently published her first non-fiction full-length book, Starblanket – A mother’s gift to her son. When she is not writing, Amy facilitates cultural workshops and drum circles. Amy is also a hand drummer and singer.

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1 Comment

  1. Carl Brandan

    Sounds like a great event!! I would love to know what the outcome was with this, can you share the report when it’s complete? I am also so disappointed to have missed it! I wish these events were better advertised! So happy you brought it to our attention; kudos Muskrat! 😀


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