WAG Opens Historic Exhibition of First Nations Artists

Gallery admission is free to youth 18 and under May 10 to June 30.

Canada’s first Aboriginal artist collective, the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. (PNIAI) were a groundbreaking cultural and political entity that self-organized to demand recognition as professional, contemporary artists. 7: Professional Native Indian Artist Inc. exhibit opens at the Winnipeg Art Gallery May 10 and runs until September 1.

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. pays tribute to Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Alex Janvier, Carl Ray, and Joseph Sanchez, who together formed a innovative artist alliance that stimulated new ways of thinking about contemporary Indigenous people, their lives, and art through the 1970s.

“7:PNIAI provides a glimpse at a vision that flourished despite the struggles these artists faced within the context of mainstream Canadian society,” comments Director and CEO of the WAG, Dr. Stephen Borys. “Given their far ranging impact, it is important to honour and recognize the efforts and contributions of these seven artists to the development of First Nations aesthetic production and to the history of Canadian art. With this in mind, the WAG is offering free gallery admission to youth 18 and younger from May 10-June 30. We want Winnipeg youth to engage the story and aesthetic of these gifted artists.”

The exhibit draws on both private and public art collections to bring together 84 works including recently uncovered masterworks of the period that have not been accessible to the public for many years. It focuses exclusively on that crucial decade during which the seven artists were active as a group, beginning with their initial meetings in 1970-1971 until their unofficial dissolution in the late 1970s.The exhibition considers their collective artistic impact, as well as the distinctive stylistic experimentation of the individual artists.

The exhibition takes its name from the collective.

“The term ‘Indian’ is contentious, and is associated with colonial oppression,” states Michelle LaVallee, Associate Curator, MacKenzie Gallery. “However, at various times Indigenous peoples gathered under the umbrella of various English terms in order to have a collective political voice. The Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. is a case in point.”

A public opening for 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., Lynne Cohen: Between Something and Nothing and Micah Lexier: This, That, Those will be held May 9, 7:00 pm. Guest speakers include: the Honourable Eric Robinson, Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, Ovide Mercerdi, WAG board representative, and Liza Maheu, Trustee of the National Gallery of Canada.

Alex Janvier and Joseph Sanchez, two of the three surviving artists, remain active and will attend the opening May 9. Daphne Odjig resides in Ontario and will not attend.

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. is organized by the MacKenzie Art Gallery. This project has been made possible through a contribution from the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage. The MacKenzie receives ongoing support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, SaskCulture, the City of Regina, and the University of Regina.

Related Programming
Youth 18 and under receive free admission to Gallery from May 10-June 30.

May 9, 10am – 4pm: Freeing the Creative Mind, a workshop with Joseph Sanchez. $25 per person, registration is required. Call Nicole at 204.789.1290.

May 10, 2pm: Artist/Curator Talk: A Conversation with Alex Janvier, Joseph Sanchez and  exhibition curator Michelle LaVallee. Included with Gallery admission.

May 21, 12:10pm, Art for Lunch Exhibition tour with Curator of Canadian Historical Art, Andrew Kear. Included with Gallery admission.

May 25 – August 24: Drop in tours run Sunday’s until August 24. Tours start at 2pm unless otherwise noted. Included with Gallery admission.

May 30: Flavours of Art: The WAG’s signature dinner-and-tour program features a 3-course exhibition-inspired fixed menu at Storm Bistro, followed by a tour of 7: Professional Native Indian Artists, Inc. Dinner is served at 6pm; the 1-hour tour begins at 7:30pm.

June 8, 1:30 -4pm: Family Sunday, Celebrate 7 amazing Indigenous artists with music, dance, tours and workshops. $10 for family (Free for members).

The Winnipeg Art Gallery is a cultural advocate – a lens and forum – helping people see and experience more through art. Playing a vital role in the community, engaging and enriching people of all ages and backgrounds through art and culture, the Winnipeg Art Gallery thrives as a creative, innovative, and accessible place for learning, discovery and inspiration.   


For information, please contact:
Tammy Sawatzky
Public Relations Coordinator



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