Wayne Longjohn never anticipated showing his paintings off in an art gallery or exhibit.
The Sturgeon Lake resident always assumed his art would be for private viewing only—just something for himself, or for his family and friends. That all changed on Friday, when Longjohn displayed his work for the first time at the Seasons of the Sun: Indigenous Colours of Life art show in Cumberland Crossing Inn.
“I don’t even know if I want to call myself an artist,” he says with a chuckle. “But, a lot of people show interest in this stuff (and) the bright colours…. It’s amazing what a few colouring pencils can do.”
Longjohn was one of eight artists who took part in the three-day art show. His work ranges from landscapes and wildlife, to black and white cartoons depicting Indigenous life in the north.
The profits from any work he sells goes towards purchasing more materials. Longjohn says he’s not interested in money, he just wants to create something that other Saskatchewan residents will appreciate.
“It’s for everybody who likes looking at paintings,” he explains. “I don’t care who you are, or where you’re from…. It’s for people to enjoy.”
Longjohn wasn’t the only long-time artist showing his work at an art show for the first time. Jimmy Turner credits one of his art teachers for pushing him to work on his craft, but Friday marked the first time he showed his paintings outside his school or home.
“I was scared,” Turner says with a laugh when asked about taking part in the show. “I was nervous. I didn’t know how to go about it.”
For Turner, art isn’t just a form of self-expression. It’s a way of keeping his life on a positive path.
He spent 14 years in the foster care system, was in and out of jail, and attempted suicide. He started painting again as he began learning more and more about his Indigenous culture, something he wished he’d heard more of as a child.
Now, he has a studio in his home, and a renewed purpose in life.
“I’ve claimed a big room (for a studio),” he says with another laugh. “When it’s time to eat, my girls yell at me to come eat, and then I go right back down.”
“For 30-plus years I’ve stayed out of trouble,” he adds. “You could say (art) is my way of healing.”
For event organizers, the Summer Solstice Art Show has two purposes. The first is to give artists like Longjohn and Turner a chance to gather and show off their work. The other, is to give Prince Albert residents a chance to do something they haven’t been able to do since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak: admire paintings, drawings and sketches in person.
“We’re just excited that we finally have a way to show our products and our creations off to the public,” says Kimberly Roblin, one of the organizers. “COVID may have shut down the events, but the artists did not get shut down. They continued to be creative, and just waited for the day when they could start inviting the public back in.”
Seasons in the Sun was part of the Summer Solstice Art Show. Roblin said they hope it will be the first of several shows at Cumberland Crossing Inn. So far, they’ve committed to hosting a Winter Solstice show around Christmas time, but ideally, they’d like to have a show every three months.
Roblin says many Indigenous artists have a desire to display their work, and Cumberland Crossing Inn is a great springboard.
“Since COVID has closed everything down, it’s been hard for artists not being able to show off their work, not being able to go to events, and not being able to sell things,” she says. “We opened this up as an opportunity to start showing off the work and letting the public know that just because COVID shut (Saskatchewan) down, they didn’t shut down.”