(Edmonton) When he was commissioned to paint the immense domed ceiling of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in the early ‘90s, Alex Janvier was dubbed “the Canadian Michelangelo.”
Since then, he has continued to take on ambitious artistic projects, such as the recently announced floor mosaic planned for Edmonton’s new downtown arena. The mosaic, known as Tsa tsa ke k’e (“Iron Foot Place”), will be 150 square metres and has the distinction of being the largest public art work yet commissioned in the city.
Now the trailblazing Aboriginal artist will share his knowledge and experience with the campus community as the Faculty of Education’s Artist in Residence for 2015.
Beginning May 25, Janvier will call the Faculty of Education home for a week, spending time with students and faculty members, including academics from the faculty’s Indigenous Education Council. On May 26, the public is invited to attend A conversation with Alex Janvier: an artist’s story, in 2-115 Education North building from 5:30-7 p.m.
Janvier is no stranger to the university. After graduating with honours from the Alberta Institute of Technology and Art (now the Alberta College of Art & Design) in Calgary in 1960, he worked as an art instructor at the U of A. Three of Janvier’s works are in the University of Alberta Art Collection (including the large-scale mural, Sky Talk, in Rutherford Library), and in 2008 the university awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree.
“To have Alex Janvier in our faculty as an Artist in Residence is an honour on many levels,” says Dean of Education Fern Snart. “He is one of Canada’s most acclaimed contemporary painters. He is also a strong, resilient Albertan who survived the residential school experience, raised a family, and has contributed generously to his own and other communities. We are incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to learn in person from someone whose talent and wisdom leave us in awe.”
Born in 1935 on the Le Goff Reserve near Cold Lake, the Alberta artist of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent is internationally renowned for his brightly coloured works, which combine abstract and representational imagery—often influenced by nature and Aboriginal values and philosophies.
During his time on campus, Janvier will be working in studio space normally used by artist and art education professor Patti Pente.
“I am so excited to host Mr. Janvier in our art education space here in the department of elementary education,” says Pente. “His visit is an important opportunity for aspiring elementary teachers to meet a significant Canadian Aboriginal artist and to learn more about our cultural heritage. Inspiring our teachers through art education will inspire our youth in the future.”
Evelyn Steinhauer, professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and director of the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program, points out that Janvier’s visit is also timely because it coincides with a spring session offering of the faculty’s EDU 211 course—Aboriginal Education and the Context for Professional Engagement. The course is mandatory for all bachelor of education students, and one of the tough topics tackled in the course is the history of residential schools in Canada.
“I want to acknowledge Dean Snart’s vision for making Alex Janvier’s visit possible,” says Steinhauer. “It really complements what we’re doing in EDU 211. He is one of the survivors of the Blue Quills Indian Residential School. Although we hear awful stories about the experiences of children in residential schools—and Alex has them too—he managed to bring the positive out of a really negative experience through his art.”