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Inkameep Art Education Unit

Lesson 3: From child to professional artist

Catalogue Image: 1967-028-029, Rodeo
[figure 9. Rodeo]
Catalogue Image: 1967-028-029

The story of Francis Baptiste

For young people who love to create art, it is important to consider the possibility of seeking higher education and pursuing a career in art. One boy in Anthony Walsh's class did just that. His work showed promise, as recognized by classmates and by the community. Funding higher education would have been very difficult for a young man from the reservation but the old Chief agreed to send Francis Baptiste to an Indian Art School at Santa Fe, New Mexico. He studied there for one school year. On his return the Chief built him a studio near Francis' home where he painted many pictures that were sent to different countries throughout the world.

Mentors, sponsors, and higher education

It is one thing to enjoy art and quite another to make a decision about continuing it as a vocation in life. Among those who make that choice, several factors are almost always present. The first is a mentor an adult who will take an interest in the young person, providing instruction and offering encouragement. It would seem that Anthony Walsh played that sort of role. The second is the recognition by one's peers of having a talent or gift for art. Francis' classmates chose him to design the painting on buckskin to be sent to a competition in London. The third factor is recognition from a wider audience. After some weeks, there came an announcement over the radio that the picture "Inkameep Nativity" had won a Silver Medal, and was going to be taken to Buckingham Palace for the Queen to see. Winning a medal at the Royal Drawing Society's Exhibit for Commonwealth children is a remarkable achievement; such acknowledgements are a source of community pride and may well have been a defining moment in Francis' decision to become an artist. The Native American Art School in Santa Fe was and remains an outstanding place for art training. It provides First Nations youth with an atmosphere where their traditional cultural values are respected. There are schools in Canada where First Nations young people can learn methods of painting, carving, jewelry making, and other art forms with teaching methods that respect the apprenticeship approach. The resources section of this lesson lists a number of post secondary institutions.

Catalogue Image: 2002-005, Standing horse
[figure 10. Standing horse]
Catalogue Image: 2002-005

The horse and rider theme is one that had been a popular one among the young people at Inkameep. Sis-hu-lk is Francis' Indian name and in the artwork (figure 9) it is clear that he had strong feelings about this aspect of life. The angle of view is low with the result that the powerful horse seems menacing to viewers as its hooves lash about in the effort to throw the rider from its back. Clouds of dust are raised and the rider seems both small and off balance. The outcome of this furious contest is not shown, leaving viewers to guess at the result. The artwork is on gray paper so the flashing white fetlocks, star, mane, and tail draw the eye.

A very different mood is created in figure 10 (also by Sis-hu-lk) where a lone horse stands in a field, head lowered. It may be subdued, aging, or simply eating. The general gray tones without the benefit of strong black outlines of the previous work, is muted. The square format is a further confining device that arrests movement and the animal is centrally located within the borders. The angle of view is more likely that of a normal standing position. Such a range of expressive moods shows the hand of a skilled artist.

Creating and responding ideas for the classroom

  1. Seek out biographies of professional artists and where possible, study and compare examples of the artwork they did as children with artwork done as an adult. Are there subjects or themes that have continued into adult life, favorite media or ways of working?
  2. Check out the web sites of several First Nations art colleges in Canada and Native American art colleges in the United States. Review the curricula and compare with curricula from art schools for predominately non-native students. What similarities and differences are discovered and what might this reveal about cultural traditions and values?
  3. Invite an artist to the school as part of a careers program or create an opportunity for an artist-in-residence where students can see how a professional artist works. Encourage students to collaborate with the artist on a mural or some other project.

Resources: Web Sites, Institutions, and Curricular Resources

Education for First Nations Artists

The Institute for American Indian Arts
IAIA is one of the best-known and oldest post secondary institutions in North America, dedicated to reawakening artistic traditions that had been a primary mode of Indian expression for centuries. It is premised on the value of cultural heritage of America's Native peoples. This institute currently offers five programs of study: General/Liberal Arts, Creative Writing, Two or Three Dimensional Arts, and Museum Studies.

The First Nations University of Canada
Formerly known as the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, the mission of this university is to enhance the quality of life, and to preserve, protect, and interpret the history, language, culture, and artistic heritage of First Nations.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization's Aboriginal Training Programme in Museum Practices
This is a year long course, September to April, designed for Aboriginal participants to gain experience in the technical aspects of museum and collections work.

The Kitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art
The art school offers a four-year program dedicated to the renewal and passing of carving, a special art form, to succeeding generations. Students strengthen and build on the old art traditions by training in the style and skills of master carvers. Many well-established Northwest Coast artists have marked their beginnings at the Kitanmaax School in Hazelton, B.C.

British Columbia's Grade 12 First Nations Education Curriculum
The program is called "Cultural Expressions, Artistic Traditions"; the site includes learning outcomes, strategies, and resources.

The British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) Aboriginal Education Initiatives
Curriculum resources are available on this site along with many First Nations and educational links.

The First Nations Education Centre, School District No. 82 in Terrace, B.C.
District schools provide a strong emphasis on First Nations and employ an arts focus from kindergarten through grade 12. While the curriculum is not available at the web site, the mission statement is provided.


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