The Allen Sapp Gallery is part of a province-wide art showcase taking place across the province in the summer of 2018.
The exhibition is called Roadside Attractions, and it is taking place in 15 Saskatchewan communities from Cumberland House in the north to Estevan in the south.
The exhibitions, organized by Dunlop Art Gallery and by partners across the province, are funded through the Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter Initiative. The various locations for the exhibitions allow for visitors to see them as a part of a road trip around the province.
Each stop features exhibits from different participating artists. Selected for the North Battleford exhibition was Lionel Peyachew, an associate professor at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at the First Nations University of Canada. He has taught sculpture and traditional Indian art and art history, and has produced art including a monument to missing and murdered Indigenous women in Saskatoon outside the new police station there.
“It’s an honour to represent a gallery near to where I used to live, which is Red Pheasant,” said Peyachew, a member of that First Nation.
In speaking to the Regional Optimist, Peyachew said the show at the gallery will include both his own sculptures and also exhibit artwork by Allen Sapp.
“It’s like a two-man show,” said Peyachew. “I’m really honoured to be able to have a show with the late Allen Sapp, because he was an icon to Canadian art, or even North American art.”
The theme of this exhibition is inspired by reconciliation, Peyachew said.
The show “represents some of the conflicts that were happening back in the 1800s and early 1900s,” said Peyachew. He pointed to such things as the residential schools, where “they were trying to assimilate all native cultures by trying to take children away and put them in non-Indigenous schools to try and assimilate them, take away their culture.”
The artwork reflects those struggles. The paintings from Sapp reflect the traditions of drumming and song, which “were not allowed to be done in public back in the day,” said Peyachew.
Peyachew’s sculptures, on the other hard, reflect “how traditions were being held back from us.”
The sculptures depict items such as drums, wood, bison fur and rawhide being surrounded by wires, cages or glass.
“Somehow I wanted to depict them as being locked up, as being not able to play, as being non-functional, as being caged-up where you can’t have any access to it,” said Peyachew.
At some point, the plan is for a performance to happen where the works currently encased in those cages and glass will be removed and students from the surrounding schools to make drums for one or two days.
That would be symbolic as “a reincarnation of the whole idea of what was once regulated and not open to us, freedom to practise our own culture,” said Peyachew.
Peyachew plans to be at the Allen Sapp Gallery near the end of the exhibition to teach a class of middle-school students on how to make drums. There are also plans for a reception at the gallery sometime in September.
For more information about the exhibition at the Allen Sapp Gallery as well as elsewhere in the province, go to www.skroadsideattractions.com.