The Northern Ontario Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Exhibition and Sale is on for this August at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto.
“We want to showcase and exhibit our art forms from the northern communities,” said John Ferris, who founded the Aboriginal Artworks Group of Northern Ontario about 12 years ago.
“This is a great opportunity for the Aboriginal artisans from this area to market and have great exposure for their artwork. It’s not just about selling the artworks or exhibiting their work, but it’s also about educating the people of our culture, heritage, language.”
Ferris is looking for 80 artisans from northern Ontario to participate in the Aug. 14-18 trip, which will cost $600 per person for a return flight between Thunder Bay and Toronto, accommodations in Toronto and a table at the exhibition and sale.
“That’s a pretty reasonable price for the artists,” Ferris said. “The artisans also will have an opportunity to bring up their prices, especially to a large community like Toronto.”
While the artisans are required to pay for their travel from their community to Thunder Bay, Ferris said a local airline has agreed to provide reduced rates.
“This preferred airline company is going to be reducing their rates for them so it will be affordable,” Ferris said.
Ferris said the goal of the exhibition and sale is to expand the artisans market to other regions.
“We hope to gain some good connections, even in Europe as well too,” Farris said. “My idea is to eventually head to Europe to showcase and exhibit our artwork over there as well. We want to expand our marketing ideas to new places internationally.”
Ferris said other Aboriginal artisans would also participating in the exhibition and sale from Manitoulin Island, Sudbury, North Bay and Toronto.
“We are going to be inviting the art gallery owners, gift shop owners, corporations, politicians and the general public,” Ferris said. “We hope to get a lot of good networking while we are down there.”
Ferris initially developed an interest in art when he was about four years old by studying the illustrations by classical masters in his family’s bible.
“It was just the contrast of the light and shadow, colours — that is what really inspired me,” Ferris said. “It was just the shapes that really caught my attention and that is what I still see.”
Ferris eventually studied art at the Ontario College of Art after working for CN Rail for about 10 years.
“I always wanted to go back to school and I had that opportunity at the age of 25,” Ferris said. “I went to George Brown College and I studied under a master portrait painter — Michael John Angel — who lectures world-wide about the old masters of painting. It was almost like fate, because that is the style of art that I wanted to engage with.”
I grew up in my home community of Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast and there were a lot of challenges living in the far north.
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