New gallery a permanent stage for Stoney Nakoda art

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Much of the Indigenous artwork being displayed at Canmore’s newest gallery was crafted using traditional skills that are slowly disappearing in modern culture.

At Lifeways gallery, the time was right to open and help sustain “endangered” skillsets of traditional cultures through art.

“It’s all hand-made, mostly with natural materials, using traditional skills which are somewhat endangered and they’re very much trying to pass on those skills,” said gallery owner Annette Johnston. “But young people from every culture want to embrace the modern technology and it can be a bit of a struggle because these skills are time consuming.”

Covering the walls at the two-level gallery are paintings, jewelry, traditional tools, handbags and instruments, among others, including work by Stoney Nakoda First Nation artists Roland Rollinmud and Helmer Twoyoungmen.

The gallery, dubbed, “a social enterprise actively participating in reconciliation in Canada and internationally,” is providing a platform for the all-Indigenous artwork, especially by giving a greater presence of Canmore’s neighbours to the east.

“(The Lifeways team are) a few volunteers who have been with the Stoney Nakoda Elder group for 15 years,” said Johnston. “We spoke with the elders and talked about this, seeing as reconciliation is a big topic today right across Canada. We wanted to bring the Stoney Nakoda presence into the Canmore area, because there doesn’t seem to be representation in the stores, although there have been various events.

“The elders have been visiting the space (gallery), which is a very good sign.”

Lifeways opened this month, but held off on a grand opening to respect “Indian time.

“Indian time means when things are right, when it’s the right time, so we didn’t do the grand opening until the elders guided us … so we suspect (a grand opening) next year.”

This past Saturday (Dec. 9), the gallery hosted a meet and greet between elders from Stoney Nakoda and residents from Canmore’s Origin at Spring Creek.

The Origin residents are members of a knitting group and offered handmade blankets, hats, mittens and scarves to the elders.

“Today we’ve come to meet here in such a beautiful setting and to have a conversation,” said Jill Rempel, a team member at Origin. “Next, we’ll see what we can personally knit for the elders.”

Lifeways is located at 709 Main Street and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook