Funding was recently confirmed to support an Indigenous arts gathering and festival. This September, Indigenous artists, curators, and cultural organizations from across Northern Ontario will gather in Baawating/Sault Ste. Marie for Dream Big 2019. Featuring two days of performances, art creation, panels, and discussion, Dream Big 2019 seeks to answer the question – what do Indigenous artists need to thrive in the North?
The gathering is being organized by the Northern Indigenous Artist Alliance (NIAA), an emerging, Indigenous-led arts service organization with the mandate to support, promote, and advocate on behalf of Indigenous artists in Northern Ontario. Co-founded by Rihkee Strapp and Cora-Rae Silk, NIAA was created in response to the lack of Indigenous-run arts organizations in the North working in Indigenous communities. NIAA holds the belief that Indigenous artists are the experts on Indigenous art and on the communities and contexts in which they work.
NIAA co-founder and board member, Rihkee Strapp, says, “Cora and I met at the first Dream Big conference in North Bay in 2015, coordinated by Metis artist and arts administrator Clayton Windatt, formerly of the White Water Gallery. The first Dream Big was mind blowing; to see artists like Kent Monkman speak and show his artwork in City Hall, or Lee Maracle talk about influencing the birth of hip hop at the Capital Centre. For Dream Big 2019 our art administration team will be looking into coordinating multiple venues to show off all the region has to offer.”
NIAA recently earned support from the province and was awarded two grants from the Ontario Arts Council to host the gathering and accompanying arts festival. “We’re extremely grateful to the OAC for their support of this project,” says Strapp. “However, Northern Ontario is huge and air travel is a major expense so we’re hoping to raise additional funds to help subsidize travel costs so more artists from across Northern Ontario can take part.” Donations are currently being accepted through the group’s GoFundMe page and will go towards travel subsidies to visiting artists. https://www.gofundme.com/get-indigenous-artists-to-dream-big-northern-on