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Ontario Arts Council Marks National Aboriginal History Month with Shapeshifters videos, Aboriginal Arts Award

Toronto, June 15, 2012 – The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) marks Canada’s National Aboriginal History Month with the release of Shapeshifters (Part I), the first three in a series of nine video profiles featuring Aboriginal artists in Ontario. On June 20, OAC will also announce the first laureate of its new Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award

Aboriginal artists and Aboriginal arts organizations are working in all regions of Ontario, in a wide range of artistic practices from traditional/customary beadwork and dance, to contemporary hip hop, visual and media arts and everything in between. We recognize the extraordinary contributions of Aboriginal artists to our cultural landscape, and the strong artistic growth in Aboriginal communities over the past few decades.   

As Martha Durdin, Chair of the OAC Board of Directors notes, “One of the province’s most innovative and rapidly changing sectors is Aboriginal arts. OAC is proud to play a key role in support of its development.”

More about OAC’s Shapeshifters Videos:

The first in the Shapeshifters series speaks to the diversity and breadth of Aboriginal Arts in Ontario. The videos explore indigenous approaches to art, cultural revitalization and offer tips on applying for a grant and feature:  

  • Sid Bobb and Penny Couchie, Theatre and Dance Artists and Co-Artistic Directors of Aanmitaagzi, a community arts collective based on Nipissing First Nation near North Bay.
  • Video Still - Sid Bobb
    Sid Bobb - Click on the image to watch the video
  • Jean Marshall, a visual artist working in traditional/customary arts and a 2012 K.M. Hunter Artists Award recipient based in Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay.
  • Video Still - Jean Marshall
    Jean Marshall - Click on the image to watch the video
  • Bear Witness, an Ottawa-based media artist and member of the electric pow wow DJ crew  A Tribe Called Red
  • Video Still - Bear Witness
    Bear Witness - Click on the image to watch the video

Shapeshifters is a series of videos that was co-produced by Thunderstone Pictures and the Ontario Arts Council, edited by Lawrence Jackman and Katharine Asals and with music from Edgardo Moreno. Parts II and III will be released through the summer and fall of 2012.

Background information on OAC funding for Aboriginal Artists:

“I think that more Aboriginal people should be aware of the granting programs because they are very helpful, especially to young people – if you want to learn how to do something, you can. The sky is the limit.”
- Jean Marshall, Visual Artist and 2012 K.M. Hunter Artists Award Recipient

More about OAC and Aboriginal Arts

  • The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) is the province of Ontario’s primary funding body for professional arts activity. Since 1963, the OAC has played a vital role in promoting and assisting the development of the arts and artists for the enjoyment and benefit of Ontarians.
  • In addition to its regular granting activities, OAC launched the  Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award in January 2012, to honour the distinctive contributions made by Aboriginal artists and arts leaders in Ontario. The first $7,500 award to celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal artists and arts leaders in Ontario will be announced on June 20, 2012.  Each year’s Aboriginal Arts Award winner will be asked to name an emerging Aboriginal artist who best exemplifies the next generation of Aboriginal leadership in the arts. The emerging artist recipient will receive $2,500.
  • In 2011-2012, the OAC funded 1,681 individual artists and 1,125 organizations in 216 communities across Ontario for a total of $52.8 million.



Geneviève Vallerand
Communications Coordinator
Ontario Arts Council
1-800-387-0058, ext. 7434