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Thursday , 1 October 2020
Joseph Sanchez, one of the Indigenous Group of Seven at Portage College.

Portage College Museum celebrates month of the artist

Portage College’s Museum of Aboriginal Peoples’ Art & Artifacts (MOAPAA) is celebrating the Month of the Artist this September.

Alberta is the only province to have a full month dedicated to giving appreciation to its artists and the value art brings to the people.

Joseph Sanchez, a world-renowned artist and a member of the Native Group of Seven, helps the college to commemorate Native artists and their artwork at the museum through his virtual tour.

For those unable to make it in person, Sanchez guides viewers throughout the museum and offers knowledge and perspective of the artwork.

Sanchez’s relationship with the college has been a long-standing one. Since opening their doors in 1978, the museum has collected 2000 Indigenous pieces of artwork.

“The museum had a small show of the Native group of Seven, and they brought me up because they had bought one of my art pieces and then it just started a relationship,” said Sanchez.

“I just started coming up as an artist in residence, and I’m now also the Chief Curator at the museum as well.”

To this day, the museum is the only place in the world that houses the permanent collection of the Native Group of Seven’s artwork. For Sanchez, having a museum completely dedicated to Native work is a large step forward for Native artists.

“For so long, Native art wasn’t considered art. Canada is quite a bit more advanced than the U.S. because museums don’t collect Native art there, and they have never blended Native art into art history,” said Sanchez.

“At Portage College, it’s important that there is a place close to the reserves that showcases Native art. So it not only shares the culture, the past, but it’s also assimilating the interpretation of the culture of today.”

Sanchez continues to visit the college and works with students in the classroom to help encourage the newer generations to explore their artistic abilities and to not be afraid to pursue art.

“I’ve really enjoyed myself at Portage College, I love working with students in the classroom. It’s so intimate, it allows me to create, and work, and share the freedom of creativity,” said Sanchez.

“It’s creativity that is the most important. To access your mind, and to not be afraid of the materials or to not be afraid to say something. If you want to be an artist, you’ve got to dig deep and you’ve got to do a lot of it.” 

Due to COVID-19, MOAPPA is only allowing tours by appointment only. To book a tour, call 780-623-6693.

About Bianca Mazziotti

Bianca Mazziotti is a York University graduate with a Professional Writing degree, who found a passion in reporting. She was fortunate enough to get a reporting job in the beautiful hamlet of Lac La Biche, and she has loved learning about the town and the people in it.