New Brunswick

This yurt houses Tobique First Nation's first studio for local artwork

Tobique First Nation is now home to an eye-catching structure that’s catching the attention of passersby.

Neqotkuk Art Studio consists of a gallery and gift shop with work of local artists available to buy

The Neqoktuk Art Studio is housed in a yurt structure made of red cedar from British Columbia. (Nojoud Al Mallees/CBC)

Tobique First Nation is now home to an eye-catching structure.

Made with red cedar from British Columbia, the newly constructed yurt is home to the Neqotkuk Art Studio, a place for artists in the community to showcase their art, work on their craft, and engage community members and visitors. 

The project was spearheaded by Shane Perley-Dutcher, councillor and visual artist.

He says the studio was built with hopes of using it to promote the arts, culture and heritage of the community in northwestern New Brunswick. 

Shane Perley-Dutcher was a leader in getting the Neqoktuk Art Studio underway in Tobique First Nation. (Nojoud Al Mallees/CBC)

"We want this to be a destination for creativity," said Perley-Dutcher. "We wanted people to come see the artists at work."

Inside the studio is a gallery that showcases local artists. The work includes paintings, hand carvings, baskets, and jewlery. Some of the artwork is available for purchase.

At the back of the studio is a makerspace, where local artists will be invited to work on their craft and run workshops. 

The studio was constructed with funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Heritage Canada and the community itself. 

Making the space even more inviting is the hand-carved door. The design includes an eagle, which Perley-Dutcher said represents community. 

"The whole idea was for the building itself to make you curious about what it was. And it's been working since day one. People are just like, what's going on here," he said. 

"If you can feel something when you go in there, [the] mission has been accomplished."

Perley-Dutcher said the space is meant to provide visitors with an "authentic view" of his community. 

"I want people to come here and start to think about, well, what is Indigenous art," said Perley-Dutcher. "People are just starting to learn about who Indigenous people are. And you know what? So are our people. Because they've had to forget about that for so long."

New Neqoktuk Art Studio in Tobique First Nation catches attention

1 year ago
Duration 3:20
The Neqotkuk Art Studio provides local artists with a space to showcase their creations and to work on their crafts.

Artists find home for their work in new studio 

When Kisuhs Perley first started pursuing the arts, he didn't get much support for his newfound interest. 

"I didn't really get a lot of encouragement .You hear a lot [of] 'Get a real job' and stuff like that," said Perley. 

Kisuhs Perley is a local artist whose work is showcased at the Neqoktuk Art Studio. (Nojoud Al Mallees/CBC)

Now with a studio available in the community, Perley said, artists can get the support and encouragement they need. 

"Now you could be somebody who draws or paints and you can actually do that for a living," he said. 

Perley, whose canoe is displayed behind the yurt, has been working as an artist for over a decade. One of his specialities is making baskets and running workshops to teach others how to create them. 

"Making the things I make, it makes you feel proud of where you come from, who you are," he said. "It makes you feel like you're doing something important and you're following in your ancestors' footsteps."

Gail Francis is an author from Tobique whose book, Moonbeam, is now available at the art studio in English, Wolastoquey, and Mi'kmaq. The book explores traditional naming, with the main character, Moonbeam, learning about her own name. 

Gail Francis wrote the book Moonbeam, which is for sale at the Neqoktuk Art Studio. (Nojoud Al Mallees/CBC)

Francis said having the studio in the community gives artists a place to showcase their work without the need to leave to develop their own networks.

"It's really important for artists like myself because it's difficult to get the exposure as an artist. For it to be here and available, it would make it a lot easier for other artists to showcase the work they've done." 

The grand opening for the studio is expected to take place in September. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nojoud Al Mallees

Reporter/Producer

Nojoud Al Mallees covers economics for The Canadian Press. She's based in Ottawa.

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