Celebrate National Aboriginal Day at the Art Gallery of Alberta

by Regan Treewater-Lipes

(ANNews) – On June 21, National Aboriginal Day, the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) will be offering FREE admission all day long, two special exhibition tours, a beading workshop, and a film screening. Everyone is welcome and all of it is free!

 In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday the Art Gallery of Alberta will also unveil ‘Past Imperfect: A Canadian History Project’ (June 17th to October 8th).  In addition to highlighting the outstanding achievements of the country, the exhibit shines a critical light on the marginalized treatment of Canada’s First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities.  The exhibition will include the work of two Aboriginal artists, Tamara Cardinal and Nicole Westman.  In recognition of National Aboriginal Day the gallery will be opening its doors to the public, free of charge.  Organizers have planned a day of special activities and events that they hope will entice patrons to come and participate in the observance of this occasion.

 From 11 am to 1 pm, and again from 5 pm to 7 pm, a student representative from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies will be leading and facilitating an interactive hands-on beading workshop.  “It’s inspired by the idea of collective labour and the processes of group art making,” explained programs and events coordinator Manon Gaudet. “Within Aboriginal communities beading is a social activity where everyone shares in the creative process.”  Although participants will be working on their own individual pieces that they can subsequently take home with them, they will be doing so within a group space – ideally conducive to shared discovery and discussion.  “The workshop will be held inside the exhibition space, so people will be surrounded by art as they work.”  Everybody is welcome, no experience with beading is necessary.

 Between 12 pm and 6 pm Professor Tanya Harnett from the University of Alberta’s Department of Art and Design will be leading hourly guided tours through the gallery.  “She will be able to provide people with an insight into her own perspective on the ‘Past Imperfect’ showcase,” commented Gaudet. 

Throughout the summer the Art Gallery of Alberta will continue to offer free guided tours every Tuesday evening.  “Each week we will have a new docent, representing a different community that is part of Alberta’s heritage.”    The gallery hopes that this chorus of interpretive voices leading these tours throughout the summer will result in the highlighting of many different cultural perspectives on the same exhibit.

 Finally, at 7:30 pm the gallery will be screening a film by director Alanis Obomsawin.  Her film Kanehsatake: 270 Year of Resistance chronicles the 1990 standoff between the Mohawks and Canadian authorities in Oka, Quebec.  The documentary provides a first-hand perspective, and all of the footage is original material that Obomsawin shot during the 78 days of conflict. 

 Organizers were cognizant during the planning process that this year National Aboriginal Day would fall on a Wednesday making it more difficult for people to attend daytime special programming.  With this in mind, the events were designed to fit within people’s existing schedules.  Gaudet commented, “The beading workshop in particular, is set up so that people working downtown can drop in during breaks in the day.” 

 Mark your calendars because the Art Gallery of Alberta’s programming for National Aboriginal Day promises to engage patrons with creativity and insight.  Gaudet and her colleagues are eager to see their planning come to fruition and think that National Aboriginal Day at the Art Gallery of Alberta has something significant to offer everyone who walks through its doors. 



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