Native Artists and Culture program sees outreach into community

Portage College’s Native Artists and Cultural (NAC) Fine Arts programs have seen a variety of community initiatives take hold in February. 

Portage offers the Aboriginal Art Certificate program, which can then be followed up with an Artisan Entrepreneur Diploma program in students’ second year. 

“It’s good to see that graduates from this program are actually out there, either teaching or doing what they had learned here in the program,” said Sweetman. 

One of the graduates from the program, Tanya Mustus, hails from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation and is an instructor at the college. 

Through some of the pieces Mustus has created, Billie-Jo Grant, an Indigenous Consultant with Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools reached out to Mustus. Grant had seen through a mutual friend a blanket the former student had made. 

The callout is to bring authentic representations into Alberta classrooms.

“She asked if they could use my blanket to incorporate it into the Grade 6 math curriculum. In regards to fractures, and angles and different things,” said Mustus. 

“I am excited. I was kind of blown away,” she said upon hearing the inclusion of her piece. 

The significance of the star blanket is shown by using symmetrical shapes and can be mapped by a multitude of reflections and rotations.

Described as tessellations, this is one of the key reasons it has a dual purpose, not just with art but with mathematics as well.

Meanwhile, another current student is working with the Metis Nation of Alberta to run cultural workshops in the region, Edmonton, and beyond.

Another is the outreach with single mothers in nearby First Nations community of Heart Lake, to support in finding micro-entrepreneurship activities. 

One of the things they are looking to start is with beadwork. 

Ruby Sweetman, coordinator of Native Arts and Culture and instructor, said it’s still in the planning stages. 

“One of the ladies from Heart Lake that I know is starting these programs in her community for single mothers, so that they’re able to get jobs and look after themselves. They just had met with Con Ed [Continuing Education] and said, what kind of programs can you offer us in Heart Lake to help these single mothers out?” said Sweetman.  

“Through some brainstorming, we came up with how she wanted me to do some beadwork with the students over there.” 

Portage College is currently accepting applications for Fall 2023. Potential students who are interested in seeing what student art pieces look like can visit Beantrees Cafe in Cold Lake.

The callout to bring authentic representations into Alberta classrooms.

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