Introduction

Closer to the Art

Closer to the Art

Art is great. I don’t always understand it, but it’s still great. Being able to convey feelings or stories in many ways is a treasure. Even if you’re like me and the best image you can draw is a stick-figure, visual art forms can be fascinating.

The most amazing bagel with tomato sauce, pizza pepperoni, and molten mozzarella cheese you've ever seen (with a bite taken out already by an overzealous Zach)
First Nations House Lunch on Friday Nov. 28: Simple, delicious, a work of art! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

For me, guitar can convey feelings when words just won’t do. But visuals really help me learn best.

String-level view looking down the fretboard of my electric guitar (did I mention the guitar is bright green!)
One piece of my rock n’ roll arsenal (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario with my Mom (which I mentioned in last week’s blog) to see the Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes special exhibit. It’s incredibly powerful stuff. There were many stories, some ancient and some about present-day life. And there was me wandering around in deep thought. People probably thought I was just lost and that I didn’t know I was in an art gallery.

The top half of my head, wearing an awesome bright red Calgary Flames toque
The Flames toque I’ve needed to wear all over the place because of the November cold also makes people look at me funny, especially at the AGO (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Music can be just as moving. For instance, my Mom brought me a CD called True Blue, by a pow-wow drum group called Northern Cree. It’s awesome. Those guys can really sing. Such music reminds me how much I enjoyed starting to learn the “N” dialect of the Cree language over the summer at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.

A picture of the CD case for the album True Blue by Northern Cree
Awesome Album (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I always enjoy the artwork in First Nations House. The more I look around, the more I find. The paintings on the walls are a nice change from most U of T buildings and I think the birch bark canoe is grand. There’s a Great Lakes Canoe project run through Mizwe Biik, in which they built that canoe and paddled it out onto one of the Great Lakes. It’s a different style of art and I recommend you check out their next project if you’re looking for a really cool opportunity.

A wall mural of a river, forest, and Toronto skyline, with a bear and it's cub, in Indigenous woodland style
Just one of the huge murals that adorns First Nations House’s walls (Photo by Zachary Biech)

At the Native Canadian Centre, you can also do a lot of fun volunteering projects. Over the summer, I helped do the judging for the Young Native Artists 2015 Calendar contest, where kids from reserves all over Ontario from kindergarten to grade 12 submitted artworks (about a thousand in total) for us to choose from. We had a blast. We picked a winning piece for each month, plus one for the cover and one for a small motif which is on all the pages.

The inside cover of the 2015 Young Native Artist's Calendar, with all the names and communities of the winning artists and other contributors
The amazing artists for this year’s calendar! Note my name under the committee member list in the bottom left-hand corner (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Those kids are amazing, they are all winners. Two kindergarten students got into the calendar, they blew me away. Their art is all very beautiful and skillful, and some of the pieces are so witty, we just had to choose them!

The calendars are available at NCCT for 5$ each. They are a perfect gift for the holidays. NCCT is also having their big craft sale on November 29th. I’ll be volunteering there as well, and maybe next week I’ll post pictures of the action!

One last note: First Nations House, The Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives, the NSA, SAGE, IEN, and the Office of Indigenous Medical Education are all working together to host this year’s Indigenous Winter Social at OISE on Friday December 5th from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. Come check it out!

A great whale wall mural in western Indigenous art style
More of First Nations House’s beautiful imagery (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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