Administered by the Edmonton Arts Council and supported through initial funding from John and Barbara Poole, Edmonton Community Foundation, Clifford E. Lee Foundation and, since 2017, the Eldon and Anne Foote family fund, EATF has supported over 120 artists working in a variety of mediums, from multimedia to music to visual arts to film (and much in between).
The Fund recognizes an artist’s work and contribution to the community and provides financial stability with $15,000 awarded to each recipient to renew, develop, grow, create or experiment with his, her or their art form.
Natahna Bargen-Lema grew up in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, homeschooled by teacher parents. “We grew up in a log house. Dad would make a big fire, and mom would read us Emily Dickinson, or even Shakespeare, in her beautiful reading voice, and we would all perch around her, trying to sit on the arms of the chair to read along.”
It was a formative upbringing that fostered creative thinking. “I thought I could walk the line between being the idealized, virtuous woman the church expected, and myself. After coming out in my late 20s, that proved impossible.” Bargen-Lema dealt, in part, with this fallout through her first book of poetry, Modern Madonna, published by Party Trick Press, a digital publishing house she co-founded.
Thanks to funding from the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund, she’s able to help other authors express themselves through words and innovative eBook design, while chipping away at her new work, 15 minutes at time. “My mantra is ‘make it easier,’ because I’m writing an experimental memoir about growing up as a closeted queer kid, and I’m trying to be very fluid and organic with it. Especially in these first stages, it’s important for me to keep it simple with 15 minutes of writing every day.”
Melissa-Jo (MJ) Belcourt Moses’s passion lies in her cultural heritage, which she continues to research to better understand her Métis ancestral legacy. Deeply connecting with her culture, Belcourt-Moses utilizes the materials the land provides through her artwork, working with kâkwa (porcupine) quills, môswa (moose) hair, atihk (caribou) hair, kinosew (fish) scales, beads, natural dyes and more.
The project Belcourt-Moses is currently working on requires her to spend more time outdoors to prepare materials and meditate. While she describes the complicated process of preparation as a lonely journey, she also finds peace in creating and reflecting. As a certified Native Cultural Art instructor, she emphasizes mentoring others to ensure that traditional knowledge and skills will continue to be passed to future generations.
Belcourt-Moses encourages every artist to “be consistent, be persistent and keep telling your stories.
“I hope there’s a collective for Indigenous artists, and more galleries to present Indigenous art. Artists need to communicate, either with other artists or our audience. It’s good to have support and shared appreciation within the community.”
Gabriel Molina now focuses on his art full time but once worked as a security monitor while in school. It was a lot of time spent looking at a screen or studying. It was a formative moment, his focus on screens. While studying traditional fine art, he explored photography and video with his Blackberry. This would eventually become his focus — incorporating all his screen time into the aesthetics of his work.
Molina was born in Edmonton. His parents immigrated to Canada from Chile in the 1970s.
These days he is working on a project called Memory Palace that will be exhibited at Latitude 53 in the fall. It is about a house he and his mother used to live in, south of downtown by the Edmonton river valley. The landlord eventually wanted to sell the house. “I wanted to build a digital monument to it,” says Molina.
His latest show focuses on displacement and nostalgia, and explores the role of technology in the world. He uses photogrammetry, a technology used for surveying and land development as well as archaeology in an effort to preserve ancient sites. “Basically, you take a ton of photos of an object or area from many different angles, and software combines those images to make an accurate 3D model,” says Molina.
“It is great that we have things like the [Edmonton] Artists’ Trust Fund,” says Molina. “The Edmonton Arts Council has helped me so much over the years.”
Sherryl Sewepagaham grew up around music. Her grandpa was an accordion player and her aunt loved Métis music and jigging. As a Cree-Dene woman from Little Red River Cree Nation, she was always around people tapping their toes, and her teachers were parents who supported her budding talents.
“My parents bought me a keyboard and I was a part of the choir growing up in elementary school,” says Sewepagaham.
“Music was just part of my upbringing,” she says. She went to Victoria Composite High School in Edmonton and was in the jazz choir. To share that love of music, Sewepagaham has been a director for Indigenous choirs in Edmonton, where she provided a space for Indigenous youth who wanted to sing but didn’t feel comfortable in their schools or city choir.
“I made a point to bring in guest artists to help teach the students about traditional drum songs,” says Sewepagaham. She is also passionate about incorporating Cree language into her work as a part of language revitalization.
“Indigenous languages are endangered and we are losing our fluent speakers as our Elders pass away.”
With the help of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund, she is composing choral music for adult and children choirs. She is presenting at Podium, a national conference of choral directors and composers in Toronto.
Meet more artists at work that are supported by EATF.
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