OCAD University

Aboriginal Visual Culture program welcomes 007 Collective

OCAD U hosted a highly anticipated artist roundtable this month with the Ottawa-based OO7 Collective. Co-presented by the Aboriginal Visual Culture program and Onsite [at] OCAD University, the event was a perfect complement to the program's conversation-inspiring Buffalo Stew Lunch, held weekly here at OCAD U.

The OO7 (Ottawa Ontario 7) Collective is made up of emerging, mid-career and established artists whose objective is to present new work outside the context of the established gallery. By exhibiting work outside a traditional, curated space and without the structured support of grants, the collective allows its members' very diverse works to be exhibited together — something which might otherwise remain a rarity.

Ariel Smith, Frank Shebageget, David General, Carolyn Vesely (Visual Arts Officer, OAC, attendee)

Ariel Smith, Frank Shebageget, David General, Carolyn Vesely (Visual Arts Officer, Ontario Arts Council, attendee). Photo: Keesic Douglas.

The OO7 comprises Barry Ace, Ron Noganosh, Frank Shebageget, Ariel Smith, Ehren ‘Bear Witness' Thomas and Leo Yerxa. And for its inaugural exhibition — on view at the Gladstone Hotel until December 9, 2012 — the collective welcomes Bonnie Devine, its first Special Agent from Toronto and Founding Chair of the Aboriginal Visual Culture (ABVC) program at OCAD U.

ABVC Mentor/Advisor David General led the distinguished group of Indigenous artists in a roundtable discussion about the development of this unique collective, with each artist also offering insight into the methodologies of his/her practice. Multidisciplinary Anishinaabe (Odawa) artist Barry Ace described the collective as an opportunity for artists to come together and present work which is "either an extension of what they're doing or outside of the context of what they normally do." Members are given the freedom and opportunity to experiment and deviate from their regular practice.

The OO7 Collective members each spoke candidly about the decision to pursue a career in art. Leo Yerxa, award winning Ojibwa writer, illustrator and artist, expressed that for him, it was the spirituality of art-making: "You don't do it for money. You do it for yourself and your soul and your sanity. That's the blessing in it, that's why I do it."

Rebecca Baird (attendee, OCAD U Grad student), Ron Noganosh, Leo Yerxa, Bonnie Devine, Barry Ace

Left to right: Rebecca Baird (attendee, OCAD U graduate student), Ron Noganosh, Leo Yerxa, Bonnie Devine and Barry Ace. Photo: Keesic Douglas.

As Indigenous artists, members of the OO7 Collective have addressed timely issues facing their communities. Throughout their varying practices and careers they have explored matters of addiction, the stereotypes and misrepresentations of Indigenous people, identity and Indigenous women's issues, as well as treaty rights, housing and the evolution of Indigenous communities in Canada.

As artists in varying stages of their careers, members of the OO7 Collective expressed the importance and inevitability of reinventing yourself as an artist. Part of the process of reinvention is research and experimentation to ensure that artists remain relevant, sustain their careers, and ultimately move forward. Said Barry Ace to the students present: "Never be afraid of that reinvention, because that's the place you're going to find the inspiration."

— by Melissa General, Program Assistant, Aboriginal Visual Culture program, OCAD University

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