Canada History Week 2022 Learning Tool

Canada History Week 2022 Learning Tool SECTION 2 – VISUAL ARTS The oldest surviving visual artworks in what we now call Canada are about 5,000 years old, but the history of art in this land begins long before that. The first people to create art here were the Indigenous peoples who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial. Indigenous art has varied over the centuries in genre, style, function, imagery, and meaning from region to region, and has undergone significant changes from period to period. Indigenous art continues to evolve and shape the art scene, reflecting art’s long and (literally) colourful history. After Europeans began to colonize North America, paintings, sculptures, and religious buildings commissioned by the Catholic Church were the most common European art forms in the new colonies, while sketches and paintings of the land and people here grew in popularity over the centuries. By the time of Confederation in 1867, artists were working hard to distinguish themselves and their art from their European counterparts through their subject matter. Today, the art scene in Canada has a history rich in both media (painting, sculpture, architecture, textiles, pottery, beadwork, etc.), and genre (landscape, surrealist, minimalist, gothic, naturalist, to name just a few). Activity 2.1 Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated (PNIAI) For millennia, Indigenous artists drove artistic innovation and creation in what we now call Canada, building a rich artistic heritage that continues today. However, as colonization expanded, Indigenous peoples were forcibly discouraged and even prohibited from partaking in traditional artistic expressions. Systemic racism was (and still is) a barrier, excluding many artists from the mainstream contemporary art scene, with some treating Indigenous art as a relic of the past rather than an evolving and diverse discipline. It wasn’t until the mid to late 20th century that contemporary Indigenous art began to be collected by and displayed in galleries rather than museums. One of the first Indigenous artists collectives to challenge colonialist views was Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., which sought to have Indigenous art recognized for its artistic merit by both the general public and by Canadian institutions. Largely thanks to their efforts, Indigenous art began to move from historical museums into art galleries. Daphne Odjig was the driver behind the group’s foundation. Reflecting on the success of PNIAI, she said, “If our work as artists has somehow helped to open doors between our people and non-Native people, then I am glad. I am even more deeply pleased if it has helped to encourage the young people that have followed our generation to express their pride in our heritage more openly, more joyfully, than I would have ever dared to think possible.” PNIAI thumbnail 5.