By Laura Young
ATIKAMEKSHENG ANISHNAWBEK – Darlene Naponse believes passionately in the talent of Northern Ontario that she has built her career in the arts in the North and travelled abroad when necessary.
“The talent is amazing here, and the land is beautiful,” says Naponse who is the Ontario Arts Council’s interim consultant for the Northeast. She started in her role in October.
Naponse is a filmmaker and writer from Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, formerly Whitefish Lake First Nation. She founded her company Pine Needle Productions with her husband, musician and producer Julian Cote at Atikameksheng, just west of Sudbury, 15 years ago.
Part of the job entails travel throughout the region, from Parry Sound to Moose Factory and Mattawa west to Wawa.
“My passion is to stay in Northern Ontario and be part of the amazing talent that’s around here. I’ve had the opportunity to work with musicians and actors and painters and different people in crafts or the other arts. I feel like now it’s time to give back and to share my experiences,” she says.
In her role with the OAC, she will work with artists across the northeast, spreading the word on the OAC and its potpourri of programs and guiding artists through the OAC’s grant application process.
She applied because she’s always had a believed in helping her community and the arts move forward, she says.
“I think it’s really important to help nurture young artists, emerging artists, even established artists. To let the North understand what’s available and how the Ontario Arts Council can help.”
Naponse has known since she was in Grade 8 that she wanted to be a filmmaker. She made her first film in 1997 while still at school at Humber College. Abandoned Houses on the Reservation was shown at Sundance and in 2003, her first feature-length film, Cradlesong, had its premiere at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
There’s more on the way, too.
Two of Naponse’s short stories were recently featured in Along the 46th, the first publication from Latitude 46, Sudbury’s new publishing house. In January, she will present a multimedia art installation, entitled Surfacing at the Sudbury Art Gallery. The show will reflect on issues of land, mining and First Nations’ rights. She is also working up a short film for the spring to talk on the film festival circuit.
As well, Naponse is working on a new feature film which will star renowned actor Tantoo Cardinal in her first role ever as a lead actor. Naponse hopes to start the project later in 2016.
She laughs when she is asked about adding the consultant’s job to the heavy-duty plate carrying her workload. It’s often like this for artists with nothing happening for a time, then everything going on, she says.
Still, she says it’s all – her writing, her art show, her films – falling into place. “In a year it could be nothing again. You get ready for things and then, bang. I saw the posting and said, ‘Well, I can do it. I can get it done.’”
Naponse is unable to apply for grants while serving as the Northeast consultant, due to conflict of interest guidelines.