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Indian Artist: Eddy Poitras

Deanna Wuttunee

Very recently I had the opportunity to interview and visit with an acquaintance of mine from several years back. It was an informative and pleasurable way of gaining an insight into the creativity of one of the younger more established Indian artists of Regina, Mr. Edward Poitras.

Amazing as it may sound, Edward might never have decided on art as a career if it had not been for the chance occurrence of being at the right place at the right time. In his particular situation, he was trying to decide on what vocation to enter when he saw a poster in this office advertising a new Indian art program. And so, in the winter of 1974, he became one of the first of about 15 students to enroll in the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College's Indian Art Program. The program operated out of Saskatoon and it was through the guidance and knowledge of Sarain Stump that Edward Poitras viewed the Indian art world of the North and South American indigenous peoples. Of the program Edward says, "The education we received there was tied together. We went on a field trip down to South America and it was a really good experience because we went to a lot of museums. We saw a lot of different country, a lot of different cultures - like the southwest area. During this time we were being taught about all the different cultural areas in North America and on that trip we were exposed to the environment and the people. We went to the Institute of American Indian Art in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and that was really inspiring to see what the students and teachers were doing. Santa Fe has a long history of contemporary Indian art and its development, and the city itself is sort of a major art center in North America after New York."

Within nine months Edward had completed the program and received his certificate in Indian Art. Although the program was designed to teach the students instruction skills, it wasn't until he was taking classes at the Manitou College in Quebec that Edward started instructing on a part time basis, and eventually, became a full-time instructor at three different colleges.

When interviewing Edward and talking with him about his work, I became aware of the humility that Edward has about his career. Edward has had 13 art shows within a 10-year period from 1975 to 1985. His art has been displayed not only in Saskatchewan but also in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Phoenix, Arizona.

He has not limited himself nor his creativity to one main area, but has also been involved in performing arts as well. He has never displayed his work in commercial galleries, largely because he choses not to. However, in the future he plans to enter that area and to find out whether or not he can make a living from the sales of his art alone.

In discussing his own art, and art in general, he states, "I don't really know of that many people that are doing what I'm doing, but my exposure to art and how to work with materials was always, especially in sculptures, combining materials. That's how I viewed historical Indian art. It wasn't a set combination of materials, such as paint and canvas, it was all kinds of materials. To be able to take anything, and combine it with other materials and to make a sculpture.

"I find that I enjoy creating things, not only sculpture but painting. I enjoy doing a lot of things - a little philosophy, anything. The way that I view art is that you can do anything and somehow turn it into a work of art."

To the viewer of some of Edward's work, it's obvious that he is indeed a very talented indigenous artist, one whose work will continue to be admired and appreciated.

When asked what he would say to younger artists or students considering art as a career, he replied, "What I'd tell them is not to expect immediate results but to keep working at it, and developing, because the more you do, the quicker you develop. If you're in the Indian art world it's not that big, and if you're doing something that's interesting people will hear about it."

Artist Eddy Poitras

Mr. Poitras was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1953. His mother was a member of the Gordon Indian Band and his father was from Fort Qu'Appelle. He attended school both in Fort Qu'Appelle and Regina, was an Indian art student and teaching assistant at Manitou College, La Macaze, Quebec (1975); and Indian art instructor, Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (1976-78); a sessional lecturer on Indian art in the Native Studies with New Breed magazine in Regina, Saskatchewan (1980-81). Since then he has been a lecturer at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, Indian Art Department, University of Regina.