Truth and Reconciliation Day 2023

Date: Sep 29, 2023

Click on the arrows above to scroll through images. 

Featured artwork:
By Jessica Desmoulin – 2019 – felted wool, beads and leather
Collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts

A message from Paul R. Baay on behalf of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA)

On this third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (also known as “Orange Shirt” Day), on September 30, 2023, I will take some time to reflect on how the AFA can support and advance the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action, published in 2015. 

At the AFA, our mandate is to support, encourage and promote artistic activity for all residents of Alberta, which includes lands that are parts of Treaty 4, Treaty 6, Treaty 7, Treaty 8 and Treaty 10, as well as eight Métis Settlements. We primarily work in the area of contemporary artistic activity which, as the legacy of colonization and Canada's residential system continues to be brought to the fore, will be more and more reflected, examined, and resonated by artists of all backgrounds and disciplines in contemporary practice.

Our job is to continue to encourage and help increase participation and arts education by Indigenous artists. Our job is to continue to celebrate the unique artistic and cultural expressions of the mosaic of Indigenous peoples that reside in Alberta. And, our job is to continue to promote the exchange of ideas and artistic collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and arts workers to help build mutual respect and understanding in our arts community. 

That's why our board decided to nurture and promote Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility through arts-related programming by Indigenous, visible minorities, or deaf and disability artists to engage audiences in and through the arts through the 2023 cycle of our Organization Activation Projects grant program. While the AFA will provide up to $20,000 for projects by a single organization, we will increase that maximum amount to up to $50,000 for partnership projects. 

We at the AFA encourage all Albertans to be more informed about the history and legacy of residential schools, and to explore the rich culture and artistic expression of Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.

About the featured artwork:
Grande Entry by Jessica Desmoulin

This artwork was acquired through the AFA's Art Acquisition by Application program in 2020. This program is designed to acquire contemporary works of art by any eligible Alberta artist through a competitive application program. 

  • This artwork, as well as Autumn Sky, were both part of 38 artworks purchased through this program in 2020. 

At the AFA, we actively support Indigenous Arts as a unique, distinct arts discipline. We also collect artworks by Indigenous artists through the AFA Art Collection to preserve, exhibit and promote. I continue encourage everyone reading this message to visit the AFA Virtual Museum and view the Indigenous collection as part of your learning and reflection on Truth and Reconciliation Day.

About the Artist

Jessica Desmoulin is Ojibway of the Pic River First Nation. As a child, she lived in Rochester, AB and later in Sparwood, BC. She currently lives with her family in Edmonton, AB.

After the birth of her second child, Desmoulin developed an illness that left her unable to work outside the home. She took this opportunity to approach her art seriously and began to paint canvasses and occasionally buffalo skulls in the new Woodland style. Her works, which connect her to her ancestral memories, explore the essential role colour plays in creating a design and reflect nature and the patterns in its creations, such as the rings of a tree, the waves in the ocean, the cracks in the earth and the petals on a flower.

Animals often appear in her paintings, both as symbols and reflections of her family and loved ones and as the totems she approaches for spiritual guidance. Her use of copper, silver, gold, and bronze reminds viewers of the precious materials in our environment and that we need to cherish our world.

Desmoulin has participated in several regional exhibitions, including "Patterns in Nature", "Animal Speak", and "Nurturing the Spirit" at Edmonton’s Bearclaw Gallery (2013, 2014, 2016). Her artwork has been featured on the covers of Alberta Native News (November 2014, September 2016), used as the logo for the Spirit Runner app, which promotes positive lifestyles for aboriginal youth and is held in the collection of the AFA.

See all of Jessica Desmoulin's artworks currently included in the AFA Art Collection.