Katie Samara Coochie and Cole Forrest in front of their mural painted for the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective. – Photo submitted by the WKP Kennedy Gallery.

By Kelly Anne Smith

NORTH BAY – The WKP Kennedy Gallery will host an Indigenous Art Gala and Exhibition to mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of Reconciliation North Bay.

North Bay proclaimed 2017 as the Year of Reconciliation. In honour of the first anniversary, the gallery will host the Indigenous Art Gala from October 27 to November 20.

Gallery Manager Alex Richardson explains that The WKP Kennedy Gallery is North Bay’s public art gallery serving the community by representing the region and the cultural producers who live here.

“It is important to us that we represent the many Indigenous artists of the region. The North Bay Indian Friendship Centre has reached out to us to plan a special exhibition which coincides with Reconciliation North Bay’s one-year anniversary of official public launch, which is in the month of November.”

Richardson says to expect a big celebration with an opening ceremony on opening night.

“Walk into the WKP Kennedy Gallery through the front doors and turn to your left—view the new beautiful mural painted by Cole Forrest and Katie Samara Couchie. “

Couchie and Forrest were summer interns for the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (ACC) when they painted the mural. Under the direction of Clayton Windatt, Director of the ACC, the two interns received support from the ACC to complete the task. Forrest readily refers to Windatt as his mentor.

Forrest says that the mural artists are very excited with their work.

“We know the mural will be there for a good while and with the timing with the Indigenous Art Gala, it feels great.”

As for his partner, Katie, Forrest speaks highly of her artistic skills and believes her to be an amazing artist.

“We changed our plan once we got into the space to see what was feasible with our skills.”

“Alex had suggested a theme that would tie Nipissing First Nation and North Bay together,” recalled Forrest. “We thought it would be a great idea to make it a mural about healing. So, what you see [on the mural] is healing in regional Ojibway, English, and French. As the world is now, specifically between Nipissing First Nation and North Bay, there has to be healing.”

According to Forrest, he believes that art can help heal.
“Arts are a huge part of everyday life as [Indigenous] People and North Bay has a small but strong arts scene. So what better way to promote that healing than through the language of arts?”

Forrest credits Native Language Teacher Tory Fisher for his consultation for the mural. In Anishinaabemowin, healing is Giige.

The artists completed the mural on Friday, August 18, just before moving to Toronto to attend post-secondary school. Forrest is studying Film and Couchie is studying Dance at George Brown.

The North Bay Indian Friendship Centre will soon be putting an open call out to artists to participate.