Forming art and connection at cross-cultural creation residency

Turtle sculpture done by Tara Francis, who was part of the Cross Cultural Residency in 2021. (Submitted: Tara Francis)

ArtsLinkNB is collaborating with L’Association des Artistes Professionnel du Nouveau-Brunswick and Mawi’art to offer a spot at the Cross-Cultural Creation Residency to three anglophone artists, three francophone artists and three Indigenous artists.

Since its inception in 2019, there have been a wide range of artists represented in the residency including playwrights, poets, traditional Indigenous puppetry and painters.

The artists selected as part of this residency are given the opportunity to get to know the different communities and flex their creative muscles for 10 days.

Tara Francis, a Mi’kmaw Artist from Elsipogtog First Nation and chair of the Mawi’art, has practiced her art form for 20 years. She uses traditional materials, specializing in porcupine quill work, silk painting and acrylic painting.

Francis was part of the first cohort of artists for the residency in 2019 and is hosting this year’s residency.

“The main part of the residency is the interaction with the other artists and learning about different cultures,” said Francis.

Francis explained that because of how much time the artists spend together, they become like “a little artistic family” by the end of the residency.

This year’s residency will be taking place at the Metepenagiag Heritage Park so that the artists can immerse themselves in nature and be inspired.

“My art was inspired by earth, air, fire, water and spirits, and was inspired by the actual nature … a squirrel and a flower and stuff that I encountered during my time at the park,” said Francis.

Francis’s porcupine quill sculpture “Grandmother Moon Turtle” was a product of this residency and was purchased by the Government of New Brunswick in 2019.

The theme of this year’s residency is “Netukulimk,” the Mi’kmaq word for the use of the natural world for the well-being of individuals and communities.

“It’s about maintaining the integrity of the environment around you and not altering it or sacrificing it to sustain yourself and living in that balanced way,” said Francis.

Elder Albert Marshall, who teaches on these natural practices that balance traditional teachings and contemporary science practices, will be present for part of the residency.

Francis said the expectation is that the nine artists chosen for this opportunity will have the 10 days to immerse themselves in the natural world and form connections. They do not need to complete their projects within the 10 days, but have an entire year to complete their projects.

As this year’s residency draws near, Francis reflects on her experiences with the residency and the importance of having time to create, especially when it comes to her own work — like “Grandmother Moon Turtle.”

“That piece came out of my first residency and that was three weeks to focus on a really big piece of art, so it’s just so beneficial to have that time … to also interact and learn from each other,” she said.