Indigenous

Mi'kmaq artist Alan Syliboy aims to use art as vehicle for change

Mi'kmaq artist Alan Syliboy is the 2016 Coady Chair of Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. He plans to use his art to address environmental issues, missing and murdered Indigenous women and First Nations' housing issues.

Alan Syliboy appointed as Coady Chair of Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University

Alan Syliboy has been chosen as the 2016 Coady Chair for Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. (Courtesy of Alan Syliboy)

Mi'kmaq artist Alan Syliboy has been appointed as the 2016 Coady Chair of Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. He plans to use his art to address environmental issues, missing and murdered Indigenous women and First Nations' housing issues.

The Coady Chair of Social Justice was founded five years ago and looks to foster ways of solving local and global problems through different disciplines.

"Art is a way to express it and it can be a very powerful way to send a message," said Syliboy.

"I'd like to use art and focus on where it can take us."

Alan Syliboy is hoping to use his art to highlight First Nations' and environmental issues. (http://www.alansyliboy.ca/)

Deeper connection with community

Syliboy also wants to use the chair to establish a deeper connection between the university and the Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation, which is the First Nation community closest to it.

"I want to increase that dialogue," he said, adding that he plans to approach the community first and then develop his art project around the issues identified. 

"I think issues like housing, living conditions and missing women, all these issues are gaining momentum and we need to make sure these issues are addressed. That they're front and centre and they don't get overlooked."

Syliboy will be spending the summer planning for the year-long project, and will be prepping for his official start in September.

"As I explore what are big issues with the Aboriginal people, I'll act accordingly."

Syliboy's art installations have been on display throughout the Maritimes, in places like the BeaverBrook Art Gallery, the Halifax Library and throughout First Nations communities. (http://www.alansyliboy.ca/)

Syliboy's art installations have been on display throughout the Maritimes, in places like the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, the Halifax Central Library and throughout First Nations communities in the region. Syliboy is also known for his book and multimedia art installation The Thundermaker.

He's incorporated community work with his art before, including helping youth express their pain through art at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

Syliboy plans to lean on people he has met throughout his career to bring in new ideas.

'Unite people so we all can look at problems'

"We will have meetings and I know, I have a lot of support from the community and I will be relying on them," said Syliboy.

Syliboy said he is going to continue his other work, but sees his new position as chair of social justice as a way to expose and solve issues.

"I think the profile of the office will help me get the message out," he said.

"If we as a people come together, and we find ways to work together … that's the way it's going to get resolved. Unite people so we all can look at problems and hopefully solve them."