Creativity takes centre stage at Cultural Foundation’s Open Studio

M’CHIGEENG—Always wanted to take up an art form but really don’t know where to start? Is there a creative spark hidden deep within you that is just waiting to burst into glorious life? Then you should check out the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation’s (OCF) Enaamjige Yaang Open Studio in M’Chigeeng.

“Enaamjige Yaang (Our Vision) will help people who are interested in learning about how to do traditional crafts, quillwork, sweetgrass and cedar boxes,” said executive director Anong Beam, “but what is near and dear to my own heart, the open studio will be available for contemporary art as well, such as ceramics. We have a wonderful new kiln, so we will be able to fire our own works.”

What’s the catch? Well, actually there isn’t one. “It’s open to everyone and it is free,” said Ms. Beam. “There will be people on site who can help you to hone your talent and ideas into whatever art form you want to explore.” So whether you are young or old, an experienced artist or someone just starting out in the form you want to explore, there is a place for you in the open studio.

Although Enaamjige Yaang is free, the OCF will gladly accept any donations that people want to offer. “There is no pressure,” said Ms. Beam, emphasizing that any donation is truly a “free-will offering.”

The project is supported by FedNor and the Canadian Council for the Arts, but it is anticipated that the project with be self standing and sustainable.

The concept isn’t a pipe dream in any shape or form. It has already proven itself to be sustainable through a novel concept. The art pays for itself.

“Once you are comfortable with your level of competence, you can offer your work for sale in our shop,” explained Ms. Beam. “We take a 25 percent commission and the artist gets 75 percent.”

Ms. Beam credits growing up with working artists as parents for the inspiration behind the project. Her late father Carl Beam was an internationally renown Anishinabe artist with works hanging in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Art Gallery and collections all around the world. Her mother is Ann Beam, a successful artist in her own right whose works find forever homes with a quite respectable price tag attached. “Growing up I always thought of art as a profession, a way of supporting yourself,” she said. “So that really gave me a different perspective than a lot of other people might have.”

“The FedNor grant gave us enough to organize Enaamjige Yaang and get it set up and supporting itself, and now, not even a year into the program, we have met that goal,” she said.

When it comes to reinvigorating the traditional artisan work, the OCF was particularly well positioned. “We have the museum collection to work off of,” she said.

The OCF is also benefiting from a program in which people who are in possession of historical artifacts can bring them in and have a detailed recreation made of the artifact. The artifact then goes into the museum collection and the donor gets to take the reproduction (and accompanying documentation) home with them.

Ms. Beam will soon be travelling to Quito, Ecuador where she will be delivering a talk on keeping museum programs alive and economically sustainable.

Enaamjige Yaang, the Open Studio, will be open Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 5:30 pm and is available without charge.