Alberta’s Artist in Residence and Arts Ambassador

Métis Cree artist, Sharon Rose Kootenay, will create beadworks and promote cultural and craft traditions of Treaty 6 territory and Alberta.

About the artist

Photo of Artist in Residence, Sharon Rose Kootenay

A life-long maker of traditional art forms, Sharon Rose Kootenay finds her inspiration in the forests and prairie landscapes she calls home. Through honouring tradition and expressing a deep connection to the land, Sharon’s color-filled pieces tell a story of cultural identity and place.

Using hide, beads, thread, and needle, she creates fine craft that illustrates regional history, significant family events, and personal perspectives. A member of the Alberta Craft Council, Sharon has participated in numerous exhibitions and cultural projects throughout Alberta.

In 2021, Sharon was the recipient of the Alberta Craft Council’s Biennial Craft Excellence Award, and along with her collaborator Jason Symington, shortlisted for the 2021 Anne and Eldon Foote Visual Arts Award. Sharon is also one of the founders of the Aboriginal Arts Council of Alberta, which facilitates traditional arts instruction and cultural retreats to Indigenous youth and women in Alberta.

About the project

During her residency, Sharon will work on a project designed in careful response to the increasing comfort levels of gathering together. This celebratory project is comprised of 2 parts:

  1. Kihohkewin // Gone Visiting
  2. Pihtikwe // Come In!

Sharon will create more than 24 beadwork and mixed-medium pieces for Kihohkewin, which will interpret the highlights of travel such as visiting with friends and relatives, effortlessly picking up the threads of conversation, the exchange of gifts and teachings, and exploring cultural craft traditions, roads, and landscapes along the way.

As the project’s exhibition component, Pihtikwe encompasses the Metis Cree concept of “Home Fire.” With an open invitation to Sharon’s studios and gallery, this component encourages guests to come for tea, view the artwork, try their hand, and to talk about national treasures and the futures of local arts communities.

  • Follow the artist’s activities on the Alberta Artist in Residence and Arts Ambassador Instagram page at @ab_artistinresidence.

Artist shortlist

Artists listed below applied to the Artist in Residence, Arts Ambassador program and, based on the excellence of their applications, were provided a $1,000 grant to begin their projects or advance their artistic practices and careers.

Janita Frantsi – contemporary dance artist, Edmonton

Photo of Janita Frantsi

Janita Frantsi is a contemporary dance artist originally from Finland, now based on Treaty 6 territory in Amiskwacîwâskahikan. During her time in Edmonton, Janita has worked as a dancer, choreographer, and instructor with several organizations such as Mile Zero Dance, KO Dance Project, Edmonton Opera, and the University of Alberta, and has created works for festivals such as SkirtsAFire and Nextfest. Inspired by her Master of Arts in Dance, Janita is passionate about questioning some of the common ideals of dance and exploring different ways of showcasing dance and the arts in the province.

Shumaila Hemani – composer, multi-disciplinary artist, Calgary

photo of Shumaila Hemani

Shumaila Hemani, is an award-winning Alberta-based multi-disciplinary artist who holds a Ph.D. in Music from the University of Alberta. Her composition, Perils of Heavy Rainfall, received Second Prize at the Listening During COVID contest by the Canadian Association of Sonic Ecology (CASE). The pioneering Canadian soundscape composer Hildegard Westerkamp applauded her for beautifully taking the listeners to an immersive world of different music, chanting, and drones. Perils…will be published in the Goose, the Journal of Environment, Arts, and Culture. Hemani’s poem, Living with Purpose, published in the New Forum (2021) has been nominated for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Poetry (2022).

Tia A Kushniruk – theatre, dance artist, Edmonton

Photo of Tia Kushniruk

Tia Ashley Kushniruk (亚 女弟) is a queer woman of Chinese-Ukrainian settler heritage from the Treaty 6 Territory of Amiskwaciwâskahikan / Edmonton. She graduated from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre in 2017, receiving the Kathryn Ash Scholarship in 2016. She has performed works of Antony Hamilton, Nicola Steer, Paul Andre-Fortier, Peggy Baker, Aria Evans, Christopher House, Shay Kuebler, Susie Burpee and Jaz Adina Simone. Since 2013 she has been affiliated with the Cirque Du Soleil and is a frequent collaborator of Jake W. Hastey (Toy Guns Dance Theatre). She is also the inaugural recipient of the CONFLUENCE Fellowship from Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton.

Lisa La Touche – tap dance artist, Calgary

Photo of Lisa La Touche

Born in Edmonton, raised in Calgary, Lisa's selected credits include Broadway's Shuffle Along, recipient of the Fred Astaire Award and Actor's Equity Award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus, touring with Savion Glover and the international sensation STOMP. She is the founder of Tap Phonics, a tap dance-based performance and production company. She is an educator and professor, curator and program director who loves servicing the intersectionality and accessibility of marginalized communities around the country. She is also a filmmaker who recently debuted TRAX, which encompasses her journey back to Alberta while discovering important local black history; all while being a mother.

Kelsey Merkeley – jewellery designer, metals artist, Calgary

Photo of Kelsey Merkeley

Kelsey Merkeley is an international award-winning goldsmith, distinguished craftsman, jewellery designer and metals artist. Kelsey has travelled globally to acquire personal training in historical and modern techniques, been mentored by some of the world’s finest jewellery artists and craftspeople, attended several prestigious jewellery institutes, and lived in the some of the most influential centres of the jewellery and gem industries (Mumbai, Bangkok, London, Los Angeles, Florence). She holds a BFA and MA with a concentration in jewellery and metalsmithing.

Tara Vahab – visual artist, Calgary

photo of Tara Vahah

Tara Vahab has been practicing art in various forms since her youth and received her first artistic award at the age of 9. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Fine Art. As an interdisciplinary artist, she has created artworks in mediums from painting and sculpture to murals and performances and has presented her work internationally. Usage of bright colours, patterns, and newspapers have become main aspects of her practice and are inspired by her research on the relationship between metaphysics, humanity, empathy, and joy.

Previous artist

Aeris Osborne

photo of Aeris Osborne

Alberta’s third Artist in Residence and Arts Ambassador was Aeris Osborne, a self-taught Hong Kong-Canadian visual artist. A painter for more than 10 years, she has been inspired by her travels and changes she has observed in the living environment. She moved to Edmonton in 2007, where she first learned to paint.

Aeris will debut her residency project, “Alberta Old Buildings,” in an exhibition in the Kassa Lobby of the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The 10+ impressionist paintings of historical residences and other buildings from across the province will exhibit at the Kassa from August to December 2023. It will then exhibit at the Viewpoint Gallery in Red Deer in 2024.

We thank Aeris for her work and accomplishments as Alberta’s former Artist in Residence.