Battle River Ensemble. Photos by Emily Jaycox

Prestigious art gala in Maskwacis promoted cooperation and neighbourliness

“Wahkohtowin,” the spirit of kinship and neighbourliness, was what the art awards gala hosted by the community of Maskwacis and organized by the Battle River Group and the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation on Sept. 21 was all about.

The Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Awards was held in the Jonas Appelgarth Theatre at the Nipisihkopahk Secondary School in Maskwacis.

Co-chair Elder Roy Louis gave a welcome, saying he was impressed with all the people who worked together to put on the event.

“Art transcends language,” said master of ceremonies Tress Taylor Gibson.

She added tears came to her eyes when the singing and drumming started and the dancers came in, saying she “felt it in her bones and chest” even though she didn’t understand the words.

The event, the eighth annual of its kind, celebrates Alberta’s arts and culture by honouring accomplished artists and supporting professional artists in the early stages of their careers.

Lt. Governor Lois Mitchell was in attendance, as well as Hon. Col. Douglas Mitchell, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback and other dignitaries.

The Cree Children’s Choir was unable to attend as planned to sing the national anthem in Cree. Mezzo soprano Nan Hughes sang O Canada in English and French.

Performances were given by Percussion Fusion, the Battle River Ensemble singing group, and violinist Maya Rathnavlu.

Percussion Fusion played three sets in this, their world premier, combining percussion instruments with a traditional drum circle, for a unique listening experience.

The Battle River Group sang a capella a composition called Battle River Love Song composed by Jack Ross.

Rathnavalu’s performance was also an original composition entitled A Prayer – Meeting of the Cultures.

The awards are funded through an endowment established in 2003. Two awards are offered in alternate years, the distinguished artist award and the emerging artist awards.

This year there were three recipients of the distinguished artist award: writer and poet Marilyn Dumont, visual artists and printmaker Walter Jule and sculptor Katie Ohe.

Each recipient receives a hand-cast medal pin, $30,000 and a two-week residency at the Banff Centre’s Leighton Artists’ Studios.

The awards were followed by a celebration dinner, also at the school.

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Mezzo soprano Nan Hughes sang O Canada in English and French.

Dancers make their way through the aisle at the beginning of the concert.

Co-chair Elder Roy Louis.

MC Tress Taylor Gibson.

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