Nfld. & Labrador

Online Indigenous art workshop bringing community and creativity together

During a time when health experts recommend staying away from one another, an art online workshop is bringing Inuit people across the country closer together. 

Workshops include beading, caribou tufting and throat singing

Raeann Brown sits on the floor in her house to show people watching over the internet how to etch a mirror. (Inuit Futures/Youtube)

During a time when health experts are recommending to physically stay away from one another, an art workshop taught online is bringing Inuit people across the country closer together. 

Inuit artists have been leading workshops over video conferencing to share their talents and to stay connected during COVID-19.

"I thought it would be a nice opportunity to just get my name out there to a bigger audience and just to connect to other like-minded people," said Wabush-based artist Raenn Brown, who is originally from Postville, Nunatsiavut.

Brown led a workshop on glass etching earlier in April, after signing up and sitting through another artist's class.

"After I left I thought, "That was great. It was really nice to connect with people outside my home,'" she said.

Raeann Brown taught a class on how to carve etchings into a mirror. (Inuit Futures)

"I think it's really important right now to have something like this to help small businesses, entrepreneurs and self-employed people," said Brown, who said it's been harder to sell her artwork during the pandemic.

The workshops, called "De-ICE-olation," are put on by the Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership, in collaboration with the Inuit Art Foundation.

Heather Igloliorte, the director of Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership, said the idea started when some of the projects she was working on were no longer going to be possible due to COVID-19. 

She decided to come up with a project that was beneficial for the Inuit community and would also work within health officials' guidelines.

"We thought, wouldn't it be great if we did a workshop series where we could encourage people to learn a new skill and feel a sense of togetherness? Get to see other Inuit faces online and learn something new in the process?" said Igloliorte. 

Heather Igloliorte wanted to come up with a project that would benefit the Inuit community and would also meet health officials' guidelines. (Lisa Graves/Concordia University)

The workshops are held a few times a week, with a wide variety of different artistic skills. There have been classes offered on embroidery, beading, caribou tufting and throat singing. 

Some of the workshops are open to the public while some are restricted to Inuit only. Igloliorte said they are always looking for new artists to join, as they plan to run the workshops for the next month.

"We are trying to get somebody from every community.… We are trying to actually include Inuit artists all across northern Canada as well as southern Canada," said Igloliorte.

Brown said she knows the workshop is serving the purpose it was designed to do.

These are some of Brown's glass etchings. (Inuit futures)

She said her etching class was full of people who wanted to know how she engraves those frosty looking designs on mirrors and glass. 

"I sell the etching product, the materials and I had a lot of people messaging me wanting kits. Now they are all at home and they are sending me pictures and showing me what they created."

"It's nice, it's exciting. I really do love to share something that I love to do so much."

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