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What do skateboarding, art and indigenous culture have in common?

Jaimie Isaac is the newly appointed aboriginal curatorial resident at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She's planning a usable halfpipe installation as part of her Border Crossings exhibit.

Artist Jaimie Isaac brings it all together at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Jaimie Isaac (left) and Rosanna Deerchild at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. (Anna Lazowski/CBC)

As the newly appointed aboriginal curatorial resident at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Jaimie Isaac is combining her passions for art, skateboarding and indigenous culture.

"I used to skateboard when I was a kid," Isaac said. "I broke my arm in the half pipe in Whistler. I've also snowboarded for a long time. You're always fighting for space in those territories, [it's] a negotiation of space."

In her two years with the gallery, Isaac will be developing exhibits and partnerships with a focus on Canadian and indigenous arts. 

​"One of the larger exhibitions I've proposed is called Border Crossings," she explained. "That's going to feature international indigenous art that brings together artists from snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing cultures that have responded to cultural, political and social territories."

Not only that, Isaac is planning to attract aboriginal youth to the Winnipeg Art Gallery by having an in situ sculpture of a halfpipe installed so they can come and skate in the exhibit. 

She believes these subcultures have a long history of critiquing and negotiating space. "So it really thinks about the territories of both land and indigenous identities in Canada," Isaac said.   

In explaining the parallels between skate and surf culture and the indigenous experience, Isaac pointed to signs in cities preventing skateboarding, and explained that until 1996, many ski hills used to be set aside for those on skis, not boards. She also spoke about navigating the ocean on a surfboard, and negotiating with others who are looking to ride the same wave.

"In terms of the intersection of those cultures and art, there's been some really interesting art on skateboards, on snowboards, on surfboards," she said. 

Isaac said she's excited to work with Jordan Bennett from the Mi'kmaq nation in Newfoundland who was on the long list for the 2015 Sobey Art Award and was involved in the Vennice Biennale last summer. Other potential artists she'd like to work with include Vernon Ah Kee and Meghann O'Brien. 

Isaac said she was interested in furthering her curatorial skills in an institution and chose the Winnipeg Art Gallery because of its history with indigenous art and artists. 

"It hosted one of the first solo exhibitions of an Indigenous artist in Canada — Norval Morrisseau in 1972," she said. 

"It also boasts the largest contemporary Inuit art collection in the world."

The WAG has nearly 13,000 pieces of Inuit art in its collection.

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