MacEwan University announces commissioned artist for new Centre for the Arts and Culture
The town of Slave Lake where Brenda Draney grew up is a deep well of inspiration for the artist and Fine Art alumna. Slave Lake’s stories, including that of the devastating fire in 2011, are part of her work. More recently, she has been drawn to the history of a trapline owned by her brother-in-law’s father, Stan Morton, and his many stories of the community. That area and the stories surrounding it will inspire her next paintings.
The paintings are part of a series commissioned by MacEwan University for its new Centre for Arts and Culture where they will appear alongside a large-scale installation piece, also inspired by northern Alberta.
After discussing the project with collaborator Ruth Burns, Brenda started thinking about “home,” “place” and “territory,” and what they mean in a larger context. “That’s when I came up with the idea to outline Stan Morton’s trapline on the floor of the atrium of the new building.”
“When you understand that land, there’s a learning that is passed on,” explains Brenda. She draws a parallel between the history of the territory—which was handed down to Stan through previous generations—and the student experience. “You learn and relearn this land and this space and this territory.
“That’s much like what will be happening for the students that come through MacEwan. They’re going to be able to access all these different avenues of learning, and it will make them more complicated—and make what they’re thinking about more complicated. That’s really important.”
In Brenda’s view, the outline of the new campus’s atrium space spoke to the outline of the trapline territory, and she began to consider the history of the land that MacEwan is built on. “I thought about ideas around borders, inside and outside, and what happens when you go into a new territory and what it means to have a territory that feels like home to you—whatever that is.”
Over the next two years, she will be working on the paintings, the installation and a hanging sculptural element. As part of her work, she and Stan will journey out to the trapline each season so she can create a bank of images to work on in her studio. As an added benefit, the experience will allow her to gather a new set of stories about the Slave Lake community and its people from Stan.
“When I was a student, it felt daunting to be at MacEwan as much as it felt exciting and amazing,” says Brenda. “I would think about my own home in northern Alberta and how I came from there and how I was here, and I thought about that journey. That was the seed of the idea for making these paintings.”
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We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.