Walking into Prairie Place Monday, April 16, was like walking into a fancy art museum.
Gazing at the photos, you had to wonder who the talented artists were and how you could get your hands on some of their art. The strokes and colour blending choices were perfect, the uniqueness even amongst paintings based on the same theme, were varied.
The event was held as a grand finale finish to a great program amongst the area and treaty’s four schools. The grade 5 students have been hard at work for nearly a year, working on their talents, and building a piece to display at the dinner event.
“The project all began when we applied for a Community Creative Partnerships Innovations grant. We wanted to get these communities working together for art,” explained Cheryl Mantei, curriculum consultant for treaty four. “It isn’t often we have all of these communities in one building.”
They called in the services of the talented local artist Michael Lonechild. A Cree painter who grew up on the White Bear First Nation reserve. Lonechild is a great role model.
“I only use three colours in my paintings,” declared Lonechild. “Red, yellow and blue, and that’s what I used with the students. I taught them to mix their own colours. I used shapes to give them a starting point for each of the lessons.”
Lonechild’s normal work captures inspiration from the days of the horse-drawn era and and show how the First Nations people understand the dual relationship of the spiritual and physical realm. The other side of his work portrays people living off the land and their relationship to it.
“I live out by White Bear Lake,” Lonechild said proudly. “I don’t see too many people, the nearest house is a while away. I just hear cars.”
The children’s faces beamed with pride, as they were asked to stand besides their painting. Many had gained new confidence in their artistic talent, and developed a new passion for a new way of learning.
“It’s a wonderful thing when I’m painting,” Lonechild said passionately. “I’m creating something, wondering where I even began. It’s a gift. And by watching the children, I’ve learnt a lot about myself.”
Dinner was served, and included a selection of burgers, potatoes and pasta, along with juice or coffee.
The evening ended with happy students asking their new beloved teacher to take photos with them, and autograph their paintings. Some even stayed late to help take down the displays, just for a few more moments with the man they grew to love.
The program was lucky enough to have Ken Lonechild video the whole experience start to finish. DVDs of the lessons will be made available for purchase.
Out of the five groups of children working on this project, a total of 30 pieces were selected to be displayed at the Fort Qu’appelle government centre. Lonechild selected the lucky few with the help of the school’s principals Murray Bird (White Bear), Shelley Sargeant (Carlyle), Kevin Hengen (Arcola), Will Elliott (Stoughton) and Lois Delorme (0cean Man). The remainder will be displayed for a year in their respective schools, only to be replaced by next year’s students.