On Thursday, February 25th, 2021, The Arctic Youth Network held the final session of the Arctic Youth Networks Webinar Series, which focused on Cultural Revitalization through Arctic Arts. The webinar explored Arctic arts, Indigenous cultural expression, and how creative works promote one’s identity. With speakers from around the Arctic Circle the event brought to light the universal importance of art and emphasized the role art can play in cultural expression.
Meet the Speakers:
Ekaterina is a Russian-Norwegin educator, curator and producer. Ekaterina has worked with an array of organizations such as the National Gallery of Canada, the VAC Foundation and the Vladimir Potanin Foundation. She has worked as a teacher in a wide range of settings and helped to curate a variety of festivals. Ekaterina is also one of the founders of the Arctic Art Institute, which aims to develop innovative cultural education projects in the North in collaboration with both public and private partners.
Jessica is from Makkovik, Canada. Jessica is a painter, printmaker and textile artist. She grew up in a very artistic family of artists and craftspeople. As she grew up she began to develop her own artistic content, shifting from producing works that were meant to be pretty to works that are meant to be meaningful. Her work aims to preserve Inuit culture and share it with others.
Stanislav is from the Khabarovsk region in Eastern Russia. Stanislav is an entrepreneur and volunteers with the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North of Khabarovsk Region, which hosts a variety of festivals and craft fairs, as a project coordinator.
The webinar is available to watch on the Arctic Youth Network Website or on the Arctic Youth Network Facebook Page. One of the key takeaways from the event was that art and culture remain strongly intertwined. By placing a greater emphasis on the significance of art it can help to strengthen cultural bonds and help to rejuvenate people’s connections to their identity and heritage.
What is Art?
One of the questions that came up repeatedly throughout all the speakers was the idea of what constitutes art? For many Arctic people arts and crafts have been an integral part of their culture for centuries. While the types of art can differ regionally this importance of art as a part of culture is universal.
One challenge that was raised was the idea of indigenous art being undervalued, not just by the outside world, but even within communities themselves. Jessica addressed the fact that this is not only an issue of indigenous art often being overlooked or undervalued by mainstream art institutions, but also by indigenous artists and crafts people themselves. The artists themselves often overlook their own work’s value as it is not seen as being formal art, but rather as merely being part of traditional cultural practices. With her own work Jessica likes to try to bridge the gap, by incorporating themes and images connected to her heritage.
Art and its Value
Art is valued differently by different people and in different regions. This in turn often also correlates to the amount of funding being made available to train in these art forms and for the exhibition of the art itself. Ekaterina emphasized the fact that the ways of learning art have been changing. One of the more recent shifts has been an increase in the availability of online classes. While these typically follow formal avenues, it also opens up the number of opportunities for people to engage with art and continue to further develop their own skills, in turn helping them to cultivate their own unique styles. Essentially, if a country values art it makes it easier to get the training required to further expand these industries. Online education is one way to provide this education to a wider audience, however, it also poses its own unique set of challenges, mainly a need for strong internet connection.
Stanislav stressed the importance of helping to get arctic art recognized and gain attention as that in turn will help to increase artists clientele, which will also help to further cultivate Arctic art.
One theme that all three speakers shared was the importance of connectivity. The growing use of the internet and social media provide artists from across the Arctic with new opportunities to share their work with new audiences, in ways that have not been possible in the past.
For the young northerners, and young people in general, trying to start their own journey it is important to remember to constantly challenge yourself. Jessica emphasized the importance of taking advantages of opportunities when they arise, and to always focus on continuing to learn. Ekaterina stressed the importance of building and utilizing your network. Her key advice was to remind young people that it is okay to ask for advice. Professors, galleries and other organizations, such as the Arctic Art Institute are often very willing to offer advice, if you take the time to ask.
Biography of the author.
Olivia is a recent Masters in Global Affairs graduate from the University of Prince Edward Island in association with Universidad Rey Juan Carlos with a passion for national and international defence, intelligence and procurement. Olivia also holds a Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto with a specialization in history and a minor in Canadian studies. Olivia is also one of the founding members and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Global Affairs Review, a new academic review based out of Madrid, Spain.