By Lethbridge Herald on January 14, 2022.
The Faculty of Fine Arts from the University of Lethbridge with the help of an alumnus, has established a cash award to support the career and artistic development of an Indigenous student.
The winner will receive a cash prize of $2,500, a donation made by U of L alumnus Terry Whitehead (BA ’94), to be used towards a residency, a mentorship, travel to study in support of their art practice, a workshop to develop advanced skills, and materials to realize a major project or support an exhibition.
“We thought it was important to support Indigenous voices in visual art but particularly because there is really strong Indigenous artists in Canada but there isn’t really enough…Blackfoot artists and artists from this area,” said Josephine Mills, Art Gallery director and curator for the University of Lethbridge.
This competition is open to full-time or part-time self-declared Indigenous students, enrolled in any program of study at the University of Lethbridge. The application deadline is January 31, 2022.
“We made the decision that they didn’t have to be enrolled in art, and a lot of it has to do because of the way Indigenous people — they’ll be enrolled in…Indigenous governance, or Indigenous Studies or Health Sciences, but art is so much a part of their life,” said Mills.
She said they are creating a deliberate strategy to answer the calls for action for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and to establish ways to encourage and support Indigenous students.
“I’ve been at the university for 20 years and I would see really strong Indigenous students in the art department come through and they’re making really good work,” said Mills.
She said some of their work was so good, she thought they would have a successful career, but that was not always the case.
“They end up having to pursue areas where they have good employment, so they end up working in education or they end up working in another area, and they don’t become professional artists,” said Mills.
Mills said that part of this award is to help a person transition from being a student into being a professional artist, but also to give them the kind of profile they will need to be able to make a major work or do a residency, so that they would have something they would be able to exhibit.
Submissions will be assessed and selected by a committee consisting of the Director/Curator of the U of L Art Gallery or designate, an Indigenous Art Studio faculty member, and the Manager of Iikaisskini or designate.
Award selection will be made on commitment to art practice, creativity and concept proposed, connection of art practice with Indigenous knowledge, and the perspectives, completeness and professionalism of the submission.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the submissions that we get and for it to spark that idea in the students, for them to become excited about this possibility,” said Mills.
Mills said that the way they structured the application process is that it follows the things people would have to do in applying for professional grants from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, or the Canada Council for the Arts.
“Everyone who applies is getting really good professional development, so it’s worthwhile for everybody. I mean obviously the winner is going to be the happiest, but the idea is to also be helping to support that professional development,” said Mills.
Students can learn more about the submission requirements and access the application at ulethbridge.ca/fine-arts/awards/spirit-prize.