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Aboriginal art show coming Thursday

An all-aboriginal art show is showing off some of the city's best talent, and it is also announcing the arrival of a new arts organization.
The Community Arts Council is helping in the establishment of an all-Indigenous arts association. The formative members are, from left, Shirley Babock, Diane Levesque-Majewski, Carla Joseph and Ivan Paquette.

An all-aboriginal art show is showing off some of the city's best talent, and it is also announcing the arrival of a new arts organization.

The exhibition features the work of some new visual arts talents to the public eye, in conjunction with some of the best known painters in the region. The names on the roster include Jennifer Annais Pighin, Shirley Babcock, Lynette La Fontaine, Darin Corbiere, Carla Joseph, Len Paquette, Diane Levesque-Majewski and the opening reception will have live music by Ivan Paquette. The show is produced by the Community Arts Council, but it is the efforts of a new association called the Northern Indigenous Artist's Collective (NIAC).

One of the pieces that catches the eye quickest is a 24-inch elk hide hand-drum built by Norman Retasket adorned with an original acrylic painting of two killer whales done by Shirley Babcock (one of their previous collaborations was given as a gift to the Governor General during the gold medal hockey game at the 2015 Canada Winter Games).

"This one I did because whales are in my heart. They talk. And the drum beat is like their heartbeat," said Babcock, a Prince George longtime resident and a member of the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation based on the Vancouver Island coast.

Her sister Levesque-Majewski is providing a striking image of abstract trees created by an acrylic pour, then silhouetted crows painted over that, and a final coat of resin to give it powerful sheen.

"This is only my second exhibition ever. My first was when this group had a show at the Omineca Arts Centre a couple of weeks ago for the Weaving Words Festival," said Levesque-Majewski. "I was inspired to include this one because painting crows is new for me, using the techniques to get these effects are new to me, so it felt appropriate because this arts group is so new. It's very exciting."

Joseph has been involved in the group since its formative first meetings. She was the artist-in-residence with the Community Arts Council and so was one of the artists around whom the initial ideas first turned.

"It's been amazing to see the group grow and see what it is becoming," said Joseph, who has two pieces in the exhibition. One of which she did new, especially for this show. "That one is called The Family Tree. And the other one is not new, but it is owned by (Cariboo-Prince George MP) Todd Doherty. He hasn't picked it up yet, and it'll have to wait a little longer because it's a great one for this special event. There is importance to this show."

The reason for the extra spotlight is the NIAC formation. Instrumental in that was CAC board member Ivan Paquette, a Metis musician and actor with Cree bloodlines to the Sawridge First Nation. He joined the CAC years ago specifically to expand the connections between the mainstream arts scene and the Aboriginal arts scene. That mandate grew into the NIAC group.

"As far as we can find, NIAC will be the first Aboriginal Arts Council in B.C.," said CAC executive director Sean Farrell.

"So far it has been a steering committee, and the artists in this exhibition are the members. They were tasked with expanding that into a freestanding arts council that would be nested within the Prince George & District Community Arts Council but it would be an independent not-for-profit agency with its own executive board, autonomous and freestanding, but in partnership with the CAC."

The opening of the art show happens Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at the Studio 2880 Feature Gallery (at 2880 15th Ave.) It is free to attend; refreshments will be served. Many of the artists will be on hand to discuss their work and their artistic processes.