Montreal's 1st Indigenous arts centre opens with exhibition by Wendat artist

After a slew of postponements throughout the pandemic, the first Indigenous-run arts centre in Montreal opened its doors last weekend for its first exhibition.

'It’s been a long time coming,' says Daphne co-founder Hannah Claus

Daphne's inaugural exhibition, Parure, shows the work of Wendat artist Teharihulen Michel Savard. (Maud Cucchi/Radio-Canada)

After a slew of postponements as a result of the pandemic, the first Indigenous-run arts centre in Montreal opened its doors for its first exhibition last weekend.

"It's been a long time coming but we're working hard to make it happen and really make a presence, be here, be seen and be heard," said Hannah Claus, who co-founded the centre along with First Nations artists Nadia Myre, Skawennati, and Caroline Monnet.

"I feel like we're finally able to have a place for our community."

The centre is called Daphne, after Daphne Odjig, the late Odawa-Potawatomi artist. Claus said she hopes it becomes known as the-go-to place to see contemporary Indigenous art in Montreal, especially that of emerging artists who aren't well known.

From left, Daphne co-founder Nadia Myre, Wendat artist Teharihulen Michel Savard, co-founder Hannah Claus and director Lori Beavis. (Submitted by Daphne)

Last year, the four women secured a space for the centre in the Rosemont borough of Montreal and hired Anishinaabe curator Lori Beavis as its director. They've been organizing virtual bead nights and artists talks since December, but were finally able to open their doors to the public.

"It was just so amazing to open the doors on Saturday," said Beavis.

"It feels really great that it is all coming together. We were dismayed that the pandemic happened; it took us so long to find a space and this exhibition was supposed to open in September, then we pushed it to December, then it went to January 2021."

Teharihulen Michel Savard has been incorporating electronic components in his silverwork since 2016. (Submitted by Daphne)

The inaugural exhibition Parure shows the work of Wendat artist Teharihulen Michel Savard. It's his first solo exhibition. 

"Being Wendat has a huge influence on my art," said Savard, who is from Wendake near Quebec City.

"I find inspiration in the knowledge of my culture that I have acquired over the years. Themes related to the creation of the Wendat world, legends, music and songs, art, are part of my being and run through my veins."

Since 2016, he's incorporated electronic components into his traditional Wendat silverwork. The exhibition includes silver earrings, as well as a Wendat headdress adorned with turkey features, silver, and a motherboard.

Teharihulen Michel Savard's self-portrait is inspired by a work of Wendat chief Zacharie Vincent (1815-1886) who also went by the name Teharihulen. (Maud Cucchi/ Radio-Canada)

"That's something that speaks to me because of that idea of tradition and trade, and how culture is always moving forward and evolving," said Claus. 

"We started with shells and porcupine as decoration, then it evolved into glass beads and silver, and now Michel is taking that step further."

The exhibition runs until June 26. During the summer, the gallery will present the work of Ilnu artist Sonia Robertson, followed by Kanien'kehá:ka artist Kaia'tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush in the fall, and Atikamekw artist Catherine Boivin during the winter.

WATCH: Daphne co-founder Skawennati's plans for the centre

Montreal will get its first Indigenous artist-run centre

CBC News Montreal

8 months ago
Daphne co-founder Skawennati plans for up-and-coming Indigenous artists to host solo exhibitions at the community centre. 5:04


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawake, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.