By Lindsay Monture
New to this school year, Six Nations Polytechnic will be bringing students the chance to discover and study the fine arts at home with the Indigenous Visual Arts program offered through the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto.
“What we’re trying to do is introduce new opportunities to explore what the arts could mean, not only traditionally and historically, but also putting new tools and new techniques and new ideas into the hands of students I think will be very fruitful.” Says Rick Hill, Deyohaha:ge Senior Project Coordinator at the Indigenous Knowledge Centre in Six Nations Polytechnic. “I personally believe the arts are a very important manifestation of culture and identity, no matter what you do with it. It’s an important act of clearing your mind or balancing your spirit and also doing something meaningful in the world.”
SNP had been contacted by OCAD to collaborate and develop the program, after they discovered some of the challenges of getting more native students to register for art school in Toronto. The partnership helps to bridge the gap for those students receiving support and living at home in Six Nations, and the challenges that can come along with moving away and adjusting to life in the big city.
The Indigenous Visual Arts program offers several courses, which includes traditional Indigenous sculpture, installation and materials classes, visual arts, art history and Indigenous studies, and a techniques class available online. Students can complete the first year and receive a SNP certificate, or continue on to transfer to OCAD to complete the rest of the 4 year program to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Indigenous Visual Culture.
SNP are also offering evening courses that are accessible to anyone who wishes to take them, such as the Indigenous materials and methods class. “We’re offering a super bargain to be able to come and take it because we want to encourage this idea,” says Hill. “We’re really hoping to build this up. We have some students right now but hopefully by January we will have more.”
Hill’s curatorial work at the Indigenous Knowledge Centre benefits the program greatly, given the amount of information on traditional and contemporary Indigenous art they have available. With this much support for the arts, anyone interested in the program can be assured that this program will produce a lot of talent and success within the community.
“They used to say we’re all born with a certain gift. That could be the power of your imagination. It’s a gifted inspiration, but you also have a social responsibility to develop that and then use it for the benefit of your community.” Hill encourages the community to continue to keep our traditional art practices at home to share. “Right now, our arts have been colonized. All the best things that we do get sold and exhibited elsewhere, you hardly see it in our own community, so I kind of want us to bring that all back, to repatriate our art back home.”
Hill’s father was an ironworker who, at 55 years old, decided to quit building and become an artist. Hill’s brother had passed in a car accident, causing his father to contemplate the meaning of life. “He went to Alaska, he was mountain climbing, and sees this eagle come to the river and grabbed this big salmon. The salmon weighed so much it could have pulled the eagle in the water. Something happened to my dad in that moment of life and death struggle, somehow it resolved all his issues.” His father then began to carve antlers.
“So an ironworker at the age of 55 can discover the artist within, imagine what talent lays within most of us. But I would encourage people not to wait until you’re 55 to find out. Let’s see what we can find out right now!”
Six Nations Polytechnic continues to accept applications for anyone interested in the program. For information on admission requirements and how to apply, visit www.snpolytechnic.com.