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Building Alliances through Art

July 9, 2019

Tia Cavanagh’s creativity on full display at Artspace until July 13

Photo by: Matthew Hayes, jibwaa aawang/miiniwaa nongwa/baamaa pii an exhibition of work by Tia Cavanagh at Artspace.
Photo by: Matthew Hayes, jibwaa aawang/miiniwaa nongwa/baamaa pii an exhibition of work by Tia Cavanagh at Artspace.

Motivated to create art that speaks to her core emotions, Master of Arts in Canadian and Indigenous Studies student and artist Tia Cavanagh cares about the world around her, and wants to showcase the resiliency of Indigenous Peoples.

“It begins with caring about something; whether that means I’ve been emotionally moved, or I feel an injustice, or I want to share a truth – I care,” says Ms. Cavanagh, whose art is being displayed until July 13 at Peterborough’s Artspace in an exhibition titled Anishinaabemowin.

“I then consider different ways I may visualize that in an arts-based way to bring these thoughts into a physical space. The manifestation of caring is done so in a creative way.”

Originally from the Algoma area north of Lake Huron, Ms. Cavanagh is Anishinaabe with mixed background. She attained her Bachelor of Fine Arts at OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) University in Toronto before choosing Trent for her Masters.

“This opportunity (at Trent) has provided a unique pathway in which I may research and theorize what makes a strong alliance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists,” says Ms. Cavanagh.

“How can alliance building within the arts challenge a political system that seeks to undermine Indigenous governance? Artists have challenged, and are challenging, the system but how can they change the system? I believe the exploration of what trust is will be of great value to my work and future community-based work that I engage with.”

Her hope for her Artspace show, she says, is that it will leave viewers “with hope and a sense of the resilience of Indigenous peoples. Each piece in the show is unique in its own meaning and the effect of the work will differ as each viewer’s knowledge of Indigenous issues in Canada varies.”

Acknowledging she is more skilled as a painter – “I have a lot to learn about different mediums” – Ms. Cavanagh says whatever medium she’s working in, there is a common denominator.

“Because I make work on difficult truths, I have to very seriously consider how I represent Indigenous peoples, how I tell stories and how they may affect any viewer. While I believe it’s important to tell truths, I have to be certain that it is my place to do so; that these are my truths, experiences and stories.”

Ahead for Ms. Cavanagh, besides the pursuit of her Masters, are a couple of summer projects.

“When you’re on a good path, opportunities arise, so I will remain open to them and hope I may continue doing what I love for a long time.”