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Participating artists: Nicole Baxter, Linda Chow, Robin Dupont, Milt Fischbein, Matt Gould, Terry Hildebrand, Brad Keys, Eveline Kolijn, Diane Krys, Darren Petersen, Jean-Claude and Talar Prefontaine, Shona Rae and Simon Wroot.

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Ruby Sweetman and Trudie Allen - Native Arts & Culture Program

On National Indigenous People's Day, we want to share the work of Trudie Allen and Ruby Sweetman, two artists and instructors of the Native Arts and Culture Program at Portage College in Lac La Biche, Alberta. Their work portrays the Woodland Cree hide tanning process and beadwork and it is currently on display in Cultivate | Instigate. Read on for a full interview with Ruby Sweetman.


Ruby Sweetman - Portage College Native Arts and Culture
Instructor and Coordinator

Ruby Sweetman is of mixed Cree ancestry and has been a professional artist and an instructor in the Native Arts and Culture Program for over 20 years. As one of the most experienced instructors of the traditional Woodland Cree hide tanning process, she creates traditional hide tanning art works
representing the past.


"Many students contribute to society by passing on many lost art forms."

Alberta Craft Council (ACC): Ruby, what is your teaching philosophy and how has it evolved over time?

Ruby: As an Indigenous learner, my thoughts on learning may differ than others, I grew up learning from Elders and their philosophy of look, listen and learn , hard work and a lot of practice to perfect a skill.

My Philosophy has always been similar on many points since I was a student. Now that I have been in the front of a class for twenty five years, I am now more aware of the diversity of learners and their varied abilities in learning. As an Instructor my role is to provide a supportive and encouraging learning environment, accommodate different ways of learning and be committed to the continuous improvement of my knowledge for the benefit of my students’ learning and Culture.

Training students in the Native Cultural Arts Field, is a very rewarding career, not only do the students learn about their culture, they learn to have great pride in who they are as Indigenous and non-indigenous people. Many students contribute to society by passing on many lost art forms.


ACC: What are some emerging trends and/or career aspirations you see from your students?

Ruby: I see aspiration and goals from successful students in the field of the Indigenous art world, when they combine their ideas with traditional and contemporary style art. Students have continued and gotten their MFAs in Visual Arts and have success in gallery shows National and Internationally. Some of our students have been recognized with high awards such as the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award, the William and Meredith Saunerson Prize for Emerging Artists in Canada from the Hnatyshyn Foundation, REVEAL award from the Hnatyshyn Foundation, and Sobeys Art Award nominees.



"I have always believed in higher education in my culture and teaching the old ways of our people in a creative practice that values art and being creative."


ACC: How have you balanced your creative practice with teaching?

Ruby: I have always believed in higher education in my culture and teaching the old ways of our people in a creative practice that values art and being creative. I feel the more I can be successful in creating art as an artist not just an Instructor, the better it is for the students to see what can be achieved if they have the right mind set. Creating works of art in my free time is relaxing and helps me keep on top of age old skills of our ancestors. 


Trudie Allen - Portage College Native Arts and Culture Program

Trudie Allen taught at the Native Arts and Culture Program at Portage College for over twenty years. She began teaching at Portage College in 1997 and retired in 2018. She identifies as Blackfoot and a member of the Blood tribe. Trudie is truly a lifelong maker, she began bead working and sewing at three years of age.


Cultivate | Instigate is about the influential creatives at the forefront of post-secondary craft education in Alberta. The artists in this exhibition balance the dual roles of educator and  professional practicing artist. Acting as torchbearers, they are bridging Alberta’s rich craft legacy with contemporary craft culture.

 Visit the exhibition at the Alberta Craft Gallery - Edmonton until August 31, 2019.

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