Moses (Amik) Beaver
Moses Moses (Amik) Beaver was a professional Aboriginal artist from the isolated fly-in community of Nibinamik, (Summer Beaver) 500 kilometers north of Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario. He was born in 1960 at Landsdowne House and relocated to Summer Beaver in 1975, when members of the Landsdowne House community chose to break away and move into their traditional territory. He spent much of his youth building his community and working on his trap line with his family and extended family. He has lived his life as part of a land based organic and holistic culture that in many respects has remained unchanged. His uncle first suggested that he express himself through drawing and painting as a way of sharing his response to being alive, in his time, when he was fifteen years old
Moses was self-taught, his use of colour revealing. He worked with acrylic on canvas, Indian Ink on paper and watercolour. He was well known in the region for his innovative representation of an interconnected world based in the natural environment. While Moses’ work reflects the black lines of traditional Woodlands art, he embraced his own unique style of embedded images of spirits, human faces and animal forms, transcending physical boundaries to the outer dimensions of the spiritual realm. In this his work reflects symbolism, realism and abstract imagery. The images tell stories, represent ancient teachings of his people and remind those who gaze on the work, we are all connected to each other and the natural world.
Stories for the First Nations People have always been a major tool of cultural transmission, holding the history, values, beliefs and spirituality of the people. Through his paintings, Moses transcended the verbal storytelling history of his People and entered into the realm of visual arts. In this, he hoped his work would resonate and awaken an awareness that is at once exciting and empowering, a way for all people to understand an Aboriginal worldview. Within this context, story telling through colour and imagery, he contributed to cultural revitalization, an awakening that continues to gather strength among the people to express and share the experience of being in and with the world, not masters of it.
Moses worked as an artist on many projects, completing his first commissioned work on his own reserve for the Nibinamik Educational Centre in 1996. To date this image is used on the schools letterhead. He also worked for the Health Centre in Nibinamik in 2000, and at various of the annual culture camps hosted on the land in the traditional hunting areas surrounding the community. In 2004 he was commissioned to work with students at the local school, completing murals on the walls. In June 2005, with funding in part from the Ontario Arts Council, he again worked with students completing a mural commemorating the history of Summer Beaver and its recent move from Government to Band run education. In August, 2005 he was commissioned by the Band to design a painting/logo for Nibinamiks new tourist fly-in camp at Fish Basket. Moses was also commissioned in August 2004 by a division of the Thunder Bay Community Arts and Heritage Education program to conduct a mask-making workshop with local youth from the Boys and Girls Club. The youth danced with their masks on the final day and the masks were put on display for a month at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. He also worked with youth through the same programming in August, 2005. Also in August, 2005 Moses was commissioned to work with in-patient youth and design a massive mural on the wall for Ka-Na-Chi-Hih, a specialized solvent abuse treatment center in Thunder Bay funded through Medical Services Branch, Health Canada.
Moses worked extensively in schools with youth, both mainstream and special education, aboriginal and non-aboriginal. These initiatives were funded for the most part by the Ontario Arts Councils Aboriginal Artists in Education and Artists in Education Programs. He completed projects over the past few years with the theme “story telling through colour and imagery” with paintings, murals and masks in King Fisher, Pikangikum, St Catherine’s, Fort Hope on a few occasions, Summer Beaver, twice in London, Ontario, Fort Severn and Peawanuk, Grimsby, Ontario, Rocky Bay and also in various Thunder Bay schools. Masks and murals from Moses’ mask making workshop with aboriginal youth at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay were on display at Definitely Superior Art Gallery for the month of November and December, 2004). Masks from the mask-making workshop with Grades 6 English and French students at Agnew H. Johnston School in Thunder Bay were put on display at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery for February 2005. The Thunder Bay and District Catholic School, St. Thomas Aquinas, independently commissioned Moses to offer three half-day art/culture courses to Grades 4, 5, and 6 students, as did Five Mile School in Thunder Bay. He also worked independently with grades 5 and 6 students at Algonquin School for two days in April, 2005.
Moses worked in collaboration with a number of artists and art organizations. He worked with Toronto’s Red Pepper Spectacle Arts on a variety of community projects in Toronto, Nibinamik and other communities. In Dec. of 2001 he participated in Red Pepper’s annual “Festival of Lights” in Toronto . This festival is a joyous blend of visual spectacle, popular theatre and celebration, annually uniting hundreds of artists, musicians, volunteers, merchants and community members, creating a Winter Solstice celebration in Toronto’s culturally rich Kensington Market. Moses also worked along side De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group from Wikwemikong. This group is a community based professional touring company, which creates and produces works by and about Aboriginal people. Since 1995 the Company has been providing an outreach program to youth on reserves, with a special focus on Northern isolated and remote communities where opportunities for creative development are limited. Moses was involved with designing stage and set elements for the Company’s millennium project, “New World Brave”. In the summer of 2003 he was involved in the training of a group of 8 youths from the James Bay Lowlands, supporting a collective creation with visual elements “Dreaming” at De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre. He has collaboratively led three community spectacle projects in Nibinamik over the years, with Red Pepper and De-ba-jeh-mu-jig, providing workshops in mask making, large puppet making, stilt walking and clay pit firing. The third annual “Under the Big Sky” festival/parade was held in collaboration with artists from Debajehmujig in September 2004, with that year’s festival featuring a short drama inspired by the local legend of Windigo as depicted by Moses in his artwork. In the spring of 2004 he collaborated with Aboriginal musician Julian Nowgabow and together they did a flute/bone making workshop with community members in Nibinamik, funded by the Ontario Arts Council. In July, 2005 Moses received funding by the Ontario Arts Councils Aboriginal Arts Projects to attend a two week Artists in Residency program at Pukaskwa National Park. Here he had the opportunity to interact with other Artists and completed a mural which was donated to the Park. As well, he conducted three workshops building canoes from spruce roots and other natural products.
Moses donated his time painting/overseeing a massive mural on the wall at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, for the Aboriginal Awareness Center during aboriginal awareness week, March 15- 20, 2004. On June 21, 2004 Moses participated in National Aboriginal Day at Old Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, painting on stage to songs by local Aboriginal singer Alice Sabourin. He presented the painting to her as a gift. He also donated his time to work with children of all ages building rock sculptures at the Thunder Bay Pass Lake Fall Fair in August, 2004. On Februry 17, 2005 Moses was invited to celebrate First Nations Public Library Week “Proud Past, Proud Future” at the Waverley Resource Library. A grassroots initiative started in 2000, citizens of Thunder Bay were invited out to celebrate and “Paint with the Artist”. While recognizing the vital role of reading and writing especially in today’s society, this workshop explored the Aboriginal history of storytelling as one of the oldest forms of communication. Following, a painting was created by Moses, with the assistance of workshop participants, transcending the verbal storytelling history into the realm of visual arts as a form of communication. This painting was donated to the library as a permanent piece. In August 2005 Moses was invited to participate in the three day Barrie 35th annual Kempenfest Festival, by the MacLaren Art Center, with travel assistance from the Canada Councils Aboriginal Peoples Collaborative Exchange. Along with Toronto’s 7th Generation Image Makers, an interactive mural with local and international visitors was completed and put on permanent display in the courtyard at MacLaren Center.
Moses had some of his artwork on display at the Health Unit in Nibinamik from 1997 to 2000, and at Toronto’s Red Pepper Spectacle in early 2001 to 2003. He also displayed his paintings for short periods at numerous venues across Ontario over the past three years while teaching art related workshops with youth in schools. In August, 2003 Moses had his first solo art show at GrannArt Gallery Inc. Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he continued to display for another year. Moses’ also displayed in a group exhibition at the same gallery, for the first annual, Black and White night in 2003, followed by two group exhibitions with various local visual artists at Mercedes Benz, Thunder Bay, Ontario. He had two paintings on display at the Woodlands Cultural Center for both the 2004 and 2005 First Nations Art Exhibitions. He was also featured in their Exhibition catalogues. Moses work was also selected to exhibit in the “Dancing Through Time Fine Art Exhibition” from Dec. 2004 – March 2005, at the MacLaren Art Center, Barrie, Ontario, featuring 21 Great Lakes Region First Nations Peoples artwork. He attended the opening ceremonies December 10, 2004, donating his time to do a rock-sculpturing workshop on Dec. 10 at the Center for local youth. He also spoke at the Barrie Area Indian Friendship Center to other Aboriginal artists about the importance of collaboration. The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and Mayors Office have also had select paintings of Moses’ work on display throughout 2004. On January 1, 2005 he was invited to display his artwork at the Lieutenant Governor’s New Years Levee held in Thunder Bay at the local Armory. It was with great pleasure that he created and presented to the Lt. Governor a painting titled “Inheritance”. For the month of February, 2005 twenty-five pieces of Moses’ work were on exhibition at Definitely Superior Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In June, 2005 – July 2005 one of his works were display at Definitely Superior Art Galleries Members Exhibition, which featured works that investigated social, political and critical issues of importance. From June 2005, until present, over 20 of Moses paintings are on display at Thunder Bay’s Ahnisnabae Art Gallery (ahnisnabae-art.com), in memory of renowned Aboriginal Artist Roy Thomas, this gallery features his artwork and the artwork of a select group of other Woodlands artists including Moses. Many of Moses paintings and pictures of projects he has completed in the past couple of years are featured on his website at www.mosesbeaver.com Also, www.lakesuperiorstore.com features the artwork of Moses and crafts/flutes/carvings from the land of Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
Moses was supported by various grants over the past three years. He received an Emerging Artist Grant from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) in 2002 and again in 2004. He was the recipient of numerous Aboriginal Arts in Education Grants from the OAC over the past three years, including grants from the Arts in Education Division, Aboriginal Arts Projects and Artists in the Community. He was also the recipient of a Recommender Grant, administered through the OAC in 2003. In June 2004 Moses received a grant from the Aboriginal Arts Projects Department of the OAC to complete a series of 6 paintings “At The Apex of Change”. These works explore the relationship between a natural land based way of seeing informed by the dependency of the urban environment and its resources from the perspective of past, present and future. They will be on exhibition in select locations from September – December 2005. Moses also received a travel grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2001 and through the Aboriginal Peoples Collaborative Exchange fund in August 2005.
Moses attended a training program March 26 – 28, 2004 on Art Means Business, a 3 day career management training program for visual artists presented by Visual Arts Ontario and Algoma University College in Sault St. Marie. He has also attended numerous information sessions in Thunder Bay put on by the Ontario Arts Council regarding their strategic plan to develop their presence in the North. On September 25, 2004 he participated in the Thunder Bay Community Arts and Heritage Education Project Trade Show at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. This show was an opportunity to bring together arts and heritage organizations and individual artists with educators, business and the community for programming in the arts. In February of 2005 Moses attended the Ontario Art Councils Arts Education Professional Development Day in Toronto, titled Legacy and Evolution; An Exploration in Creativity.