Art for art’s sake - Dawn Saunders Dahl, artist
Dawn Saunders Dahl is Manager of Indigenous Relationships and Programs at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff and a portrait painter.
“I am an artist, connector and generator,” Saunders Dahl said. “I have a tendency to put people together where sometimes ideas and projects can be generated from this interaction.”
Saunders Dahl has lived in Canmore for the past five years. She holds a BFA in Painting and Ceramics from the University of Arts, (formerly ACAD). Saunders Dahl paints portraits and over the last seven years she started to paint landscapes in Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan.
“Since 2008, I have been actively working with Indigenous arts communities in Alberta through public art opportunities, art exhibitions, projects and events,” Saunders Dahl said. “I developed projects such as the Indigenous Artist Program at The Works Art & Design Festival (2009-13), Indigenous Art Park in Edmonton (2013-15), National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebrations in the Town of Canmore (2016-19) and the Canada 150 mural project where murals were installed in Morley, Exshaw, Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise.”
She currently works at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies where she develops Indigenous-led positions and programs along with being the curator of Galerie Cite in Edmonton since 2015.
“I have also recently developed Public Art Calls for Indigenous artists for the Ottawa Public Library and National Library and Archives joint facility – to be opened in 2024,” Saunders Dahl said. “I am a board member at the Alberta Craft Council and a member of the Moh’kinsstis Public Art Guiding Circle for the City of Calgary, where I ensure that Indigenous artists voices are present.”
Saunders Dahl is inspired by the Elders, youth and community members that she’s met.
“Their strength and patience remind me why I have chosen to do the work I do,” Saunders Dahl said.
She paints portraits and landscapes with oils and watercolors, as well as low-fire clay and pencils.
“My studio work is a reflection of my personal history, which strives to generate discussion and awareness around issues of community, identity and the land,” Saunders Dahl said. “My deep interest in place, genealogy, and reconciliation/action with Indigenous communities reinforces my responsibility to understand my family histories and the land, and most importantly integrate opportunities to give back.”
Art is an opportunity to express what you want to in ways that you cannot simply say with words, she said.
“It can be freeing if you let it,” Saunders Dahl said.
“After spending time researching my family records at the Metis Nation of Alberta and the Winnipeg Archives and attending the final TRC in Edmonton, my administrative work shifted to better understand my ancestry, care for the land and share. Teachings from Elders and community members encourage and guide my work and perspectives. I am of Métis Red River Ojibway (Ste Anne/Ste.Agathe, Manitoba) and European ancestry. I am honored to have been gifted the Stoney Nakoda name Âba Thâ Wîyâ, which translated means the Dawn.”
“In the spirit of reconciliation, I acknowledge that I live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Iyarhe Nakoda Nations (Bearspaw, Wesley, Chiniki), the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina– part of the Dene people, Métis Nation-Region 3 in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta,” Saunders Dahl said. “I also acknowledge that I work and play where my family home is located on the traditional territories of Neyiyaw (Cree), Dene, Stoney-Nakota Sioux, Saulteaux, and Ojibwe, Metis Nation-Region 4 in Treaty 6 region of Central Alberta.”