It’s going to be an interesting and inspirational year for local artist Lauren Crazybull. The young Blackfoot/Dene painter is now Alberta’s first artist in residence and will soon travel the province to gather source material and other bits of information to create her year-long residency project she calls “The Portrait of Alberta.”
“It started a few years ago when I had this idea to create an Indigenous map of Lethbridge,” Crazybull says. “When I first thought of this idea, my aunt was showing me around Lethbridge and showing me these spots that seemed pretty bland and insignificant on their own—like a parking lot or underpass or something—but they were significant to the people who were there. So in Lethbridge, that would be the Blackfoot people. I thought that was really interesting because I had never really thought about these spaces and they have a really rich history.”
After the opportunity for Alberta’s artist in residence came up, Crazybull decided to expand her project to fit the whole province.
“I’m going travelling around Alberta and getting to know it a little bit more according to the Indigenous people in each area,” she says. “It’s going to be a large scale art map. You’re not going to be able to use it to get around or anything, but it will be marking different Indigenous spots. It’s also an art project so it will be a mix between a painting and a map, if that makes sense.”
While the project is part of Crazybull’s residency commitment, “The Portrait of Alberta” is a deeply personal project for her. It will not only allow her to travel throughout the province she loves and calls home, but also allow her to reconnect and learn more about her heritage.
“My mom is from Southern Alberta Kainai Nation and my dad is from up North, like Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay area,” she says. “That’s my background and those are the places my ancestors lived so it is a very significant project for me.”
Utilizing her skills as a former Indigenous issues radio host for Lethbridge’s CKXU 88.3 FM, Crazybull is also planning on launching an audio component with “Portrait of Alberta.”
“I wanted to create an hour-long audio documentary that kind of explains what you’re looking at with the map because I’m going to be talking to so many different people and collecting stories,” she says. “I’d like to put that together and show people what that was like, and I do want to put these up online available for anyone to see when it’s done.”
Currently, Crazybull spends most of her days at her McLuhan House residency studio, a space she says is vital to her “dedication to create art everyday.”
She is planning to leave for the project after the winter, but before she does she is having an art show at the Aviary this Thursday. The show will include a dedicated collection of Crazybull’s portraits of Indigenous people from all over Alberta and British Columbia.
The show will also feature a talk session from Crazybull and music from Calgary’s bedroom pop maestro Soft Cure, and Matthew Cardinal of the local self-described “moccasingaze” band nêhiyawak.
“I’ve never had an arts space before. So with this studio residency, I’ve been very fortunate,” Crazybull says. “I can create larger scale stuff, which I’ve been working on for the show on Thursday, and this show is kind of a starting point for me because I’m in the first year of being a full-time artist or a self-employed artist. I’m also going to be attending some cultural events later in the year as well, which is a component of the residency. So yeah, it’s going to be a big year for me.”
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