Anishinabek Art On Disply At Third Biindigen Arts Festival
By Barb Nahwegahbow
SUTTON, ON – Suzanne Smoke has a mission.
“I just want to showcase Aboriginal people as the magnificent people that we are, especially through our arts,” says the citizen of Alderville First Nation. “Our culture and our history are magnificent and I want people to re-evaluate what they’ve been taught about us.”
Smoke is the Marketing Manager for the Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery in Sutton, Ontario and the Curator of the Biindigen Gallery located within the Centre. She was on the Board of Directors but joined the staff three years ago when the Centre recognized there was a thirst for knowledge about Aboriginal art and Aboriginal people.
“I bring an Aboriginal component to everything we do,” says Smoke. “The classes, exhibitions, the artists we bring into the Gallery, the summer day camps. I create a lot of opportunities.”
One of the opportunities she’s developed is the annual Biindigen Arts Festival where First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists are invited to show and sell their work. Sept. 28 marked the third Biindigen Festival and this year, Smoke synchronized it with the 19th annual Georgina Studio Tour to increase its visibility.
Mike Ormsby, Toronto-based painter from Curve Lake First Nation, also works in wood, making canoes, custom furniture and tikinagans. He carves stone, antler and wood. Ormsby draws on the teachings he’s received from elders like the late Art Solomon and mentor Norman Knott and his paintings depict the harmony in the natural world and the Anishinaabe relationship with that world. His paintings are bold and stunning but at the same time, exude a sense of peace and calm.
“I came because I wanted to take part in an Aboriginal Festival,” says Ormsby. “I was interested in seeing the Arts Centre and what Suzanne had done with, and for, First Nations art. I also wanted to get my work out there, to be noticed, to get feedback.”
He’s patient with visitors to his booth and he takes the time to teach them about First Nations culture. At the end of the day, although sales were not what he would have liked, five of his paintings were selected for Biindigen Gallery. He’s confident that Smoke will do a good job of marketing and promoting his work.
“I think people have a new respect for Aboriginal people and culture and art,” says Smoke. “If they don’t know, I’m pretty quick to share it.…It’s all about educating. I think that’s what my job is.”
Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery is located at 149 High Street in Sutton, Ontario. Paintings, photographs, jewelry, carvings and leatherwork by First Nations artists are available at Biindigen Gallery.