I am a Manitoba Cree (urban) and I am a single parent of one teen
aged daughter. I come from a family of thirteen children and I was raised as a child in
the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, an area sometimes referred to as "skid row".
Although the only "visual art" we had hanging on the walls of our home at any
given time was a calendar, my interest in art began at a very early age. I spent quite a
bit of time looking at the collection of the Vancouver Museum which at that time was
located at the corner of Main & Hastings street. I also recall forgoing breakfast in
order to paint in a kindergarten teacher's class before school started.
I left home at the age of fifteen and supported myself working as a chambermaid and a
office cleaner. In 1989, while still working as a chambermaid, I began painting
store-bought ceramics and within six months was planning to sell my work at a local Native
Arts & Craft Fair in Vancouver. I was short of funds and decided to make my own pots.
I bought a small amount of clay from the Carnegie Center located at the corner of Main
& Hastings and with no instruction, (except for a documentary video based on the life
of Pueblo potter, Maria Martinez), began production using implements I gathered from my
kitchen. I spent the next couple of years researching Ancient and Contemporary
Pueblo-style pottery and reproduced those images onto greenware and handbuilt pots.
In 1992, I applied and was accepted into the Fine Arts Program at Langara College. After
completing the program, I applied and was accepted into the Emily Carr Institute of Art
& Design where I recently graduated with a 3.81 GPA.
I am now working towards my BFA degree and am planning on moving to Regina, Saskatchewan
in 1998 where I have been accepted into their MFA program in ceramics. Much of the work I
make deals with issues that have directly affected my family. These issues include the
devastating effects caused by the Residential School System where my mother spent twelve
years of her youth during the mid 1920's and 30's.
I am involved with the downtown eastside community and have donated a ceramic memorial
bowl and two large hand-painted banners pertaining to the Native women who have died as a
result of substance abuse and violence in the area, three of whom are my older sisters. I
am very concerned about the loss of hope I witness and strive to make changes where ever
I have also organized the Inaugral First Nations Awareness Day Event at the Emily Carr
Institute of Art & Design which took place November 20th 1995, as well as the 2nd
Annual First Nations Awareness Day Event which took place on January 16th, 1997. I felt
that the event was very important to have at the school because of the overwhelming
ignorance I and other First Nations students have experienced from a number of non-Native
students. The event allowed us to share our visions and experiences. Both events have been
very successful and we have received many extremely positive responses from people who
attended. The positive responses to the second event has been even greater and many people
are expressing their gratitude for the chance to become aware of First Nations
experiences. I feel that these events also allowed the First Nations students attending
Emily Carr to feel a great sense of pride in our cultures.
My goals are to make the public aware of the social
problems that plague our people such as racism, ignorance of the "Other", the
Indian Residential School System, etc. I feel it is important to share these issues as the
time for healing is now!
Artist contact info
E. J. Chartrand
2-3015 Parliament Avenue
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