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artsplace in canmore with a person dancing outside the entrance of the building

Art, Stories, and Fun: Canmore’s artsPlace is the Place to Be

The Nakoda AV Club transformed a school initiative into artistic careers for its members

Have you been waiting to see something really special?

You don’t have to wait anymore.

Îethka Voices is a captivating art exhibit showcasing the talent of emerging Îethka (Stoney Nakoda) artists organized by the Nakoda AV Club.

It’s open to visit at Canmore ’s artsPlace until October 2.

The exhibit features many artists, including Suwâtâgâ-Mu, Abraham, Simeon, and others like Sally Twoyoungmen, Giona Smalleyes, and Brandon Chiniquay. Unique art forms are on display, including Chey Suwâtâgâ-Mu’s cat, Louis Riel, depicted on an Indian status card. If that wasn’t unique enough, Shawn Abraham’s graphic novel illustrations and Loretta Simeon’s exquisite beadwork are also on display.

Simeon is also a talented filmmaker and put together Animovies 2023, a curated program featuring short films from around the world. Simeon uses a combination of stop-motion, puppetry, and animated objects to tell stories.

chey in overalls posing for a photo next to one of their art pieces
Chey Suwâtâgâ Mû pictured next to their art piece at artsPlace in Canmore | artsPlace

From Bearspaw First Nation, Chey Suwâtâgâ-Mu is the exhibit’s curator and a talented artist to boot.

“I want to celebrate the Nakoda artists that we have, see them express their individuality and what makes them make art,” Suwâtâgâ-Mu told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Central to the exhibit is the power of storytelling in art, spotlighting its significance in a traditional Îethka society. Suwâtâgâ-Mu is a pro when it comes to storytelling through art.

Last summer, they were selected to create a mural celebrating Pride for the Shaw Pride Marches On art walk initiative. Suwâtâgâ-Mu’s piece was titled Dancing to My True Colours and told the story of two-spirit dancers.

Suwâtâgâ-Mu believes that through different art forms like painting, photography, digital art, or music, stories can be told in ways that don’t necessarily conform to a traditional Indigenous look.

“I wanted to have the artists who are showcased here be able to express art in their own way and tell those stories, but it doesn’t have to be or look Indigenous – it’s their own work,” they explained while talking about Îethka Voices.

In addition to Suwâtâgâ-Mu’s art, the exhibit will feature pieces from eight other members of the AV Club, including beadwork, graphic art, videography, and photography.

The Nakoda AV Club, the force behind the exhibit, was established around 2015 by students at the Mînî Thnî Community School. What began as a high school initiative soon became career pathways for many members.

a scene from a short film by av club workshop participant featuring tall slender black trees
A scene from a Nakoda AV Club workshop participant’s film titled Coyote vs. Slenderman | Nakoda AV Club

“It was a high school experience, and then all of a sudden, it grew into careers. It was like a little seed that sprouted and just started growing, and now all of us artists are doing different things like digital artwork, filmmaking, music,” said Suwâtâgâ-Mu.

Îethka Voices is one of many events held by the AV Club. Other events include premieres, fundraisers, film screenings, culture sharing, camps, and more. The club also offers community workshops where youths work independently or with a small team to create a film.

Many of the artists are self-taught, Îethka Voices will be their first time submitting a piece to a show.

Suwâtâgâ-Mu hopes this opportunity will kickstart their careers and encourage Îethka youths from areas like Mînî Thnî, Big Horn, and Eden Valley to embrace art not only as a form of expression but also as a future career.

The exhibit began on September 1 and will finish on October 2.

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