The healing properties of art have never been clearer to Professor Joeann Argue.
Prof. Argue’s artistic contribution in response to COVID took shape in the form of a striking mask she created that will be featured this October in Banff as part of Breathe a collection on display at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. The juried exhibition evolved from Breathe Project, a Facebook group created and contributed to by Métis artists Nathalie Bertin and Lisa Shepherd.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, everyone has been turning to artists to help them through,” reflects Prof. Argue, who teaches Indigenous performance and storytelling courses as a Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies faculty member. “Musicians, theatre folk, visual artists, writers…all those who produce art have been trying to find ways to share their work and help people through this. In difficult times we often turn to artists because they help us to make sense of what is happening, give us an outlet for our emotions and aid us in remembering that there is a light at the end of even the darkest tunnel.”
In speaking of her mask, Prof. Argue, says: “I hope my mask conveys a sense of hope for people; that although it is difficult now we will get through.”
Creating art in various forms from a young age, Prof. Argue sees her creativity as “a natural part” of her teaching, adding “Indigenous students have often been exposed to, and take part in, traditional practices that are both art and cultural knowledge. It’s important to me to invite that kind of knowing into the classroom and to give it equal weight with more typical academic knowledge.”
“My hope is students recognize the importance and validity of stories, not just as entertainment but as deeply rooted cultural knowledge expression. I feel the art I practice is my contribution to that end.”