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Open Space presents The Stories We Belong To

Group exhibition showcases emerging Indigenous artists

Open Space artist-run centre presents The Stories We Belong To, an exhibition showcasing the work of the 2022 Indigenous Emerging Artists Program (IEAP) participants.

IEAP was founded in 2013 as a free and hands-on program to nurture, mentor and assist in the development of emerging Indigenous artists’ professional and creative practices.

A small cohort of mentees between the ages of 15 to 30, whose Indigenous ancestries come from North America and beyond, explores a wide range of artistic practices and connects with established Indigenous artists through a series of workshops developed by each mentor specifically for the group.

The theme for this year—the stories we belong to—frames the program, through which mentees are offered the opportunity to tell their own stories, culminating in the group exhibition.

Mentors include Open Space’s curator of Indigenous and contemporary art, Eli Hirtle; Elder-in-Residence Gerry Ambers; Elder Support Tyrone Elliott; and Tah’lum Indigenous Artists Collective facilitator and director Jesse Campbell, alongside guest artists and cultural practitioners from local, national and international Indigenous communities.

Campbell, a visual artist, former IEAP participant and current mentor, said of his experience, “IEAP helped me as an emerging artist find community and grow in a supportive and culturally safe environment. I now work as a mentor and facilitator of the program and have the great privilege of seeing another generation of artists grow and find their place. Through mentorship with established Indigenous artists, the IEAP cohorts of past and present have the rare opportunity to get the real unfiltered experience of learning directly what it’s like to work as a professional artist. These opportunities have led some of our past mentees to become professional artists in their own right.”

IEAP began as the Indigenous Youth Arts Showcase in 2013 under the vision and guidance of Tłaliłila’ogwa (Dr. Sarah Hunt, Kwagiulth), Peter Morin (Tahltan Nation), Bonnie Quait (Lekwungen), Ellie Dion and Doug Jarvis, with support from Elder Gerry Ambers.

In 2016, the program was directed by France Trépanier (Kanien’kéha:ka and French ancestry). Trépanier held the first on-staff Indigenous curator position at Open Space and saw this program as an opportunity for a new generation of emerging artists to explore the field of new media.

Hirtle led the program in 2019 and invited Cherokee/Muscogee artist Elisa Harkins for a two-part performance and ribbon skirt-making workshop. Carrier Wit’at artist Whess Harman then brought their acclaimed Potlatch Punk series to the gallery for a workshop. Participants created custom denim jackets adorned with beadwork, patches and other materials grounded through an Indigenous lens.

Currently marking 50 years since its establishment in 1972, Open Space is a not-for-profit multidisciplinary artist-run centre located at 510 Fort Street (second floor) in downtown Victoria.

The Stories We Belong To exhibition runs at Open Space from November 19, 2022 to February 11, 2023.