7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc.

Alex Janvier, The Four Seasons of '76, 1977, acrylic on masonite, 91.4 x 81.3 cm, Courtesy of Janvier Gallery

In 1971, Daphne Odjig and her husband Chester Beavon opened a small craft store, Odjig Indian Prints of Canada Ltd., located at 331 Donald Street in Winnipeg. As a gathering place, the store brought together artists who had previously worked in isolation from each other as well as the Native art scenes in Ottawa and Toronto.“Odjig’s,” as it was commonly referred to, offered a friendly place for artists to receive support and to discuss their challenges and aspirations. The store was a success and was expanded in 1974, establishing the New Warehouse Gallery.

By 1972, a group of artists had formed and began to call themselves the “Group of Seven.” They usually met in at the North Star Inn or at Odjig’s where they shared their frustrations with the Canadian art establishment, grappled with prejudice, discussed aesthetics, and critiqued one another’s art In November 1973, these seven artists developed a proposal to formalize their organization into the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated (PNIAI). An application was submitted on March 13, 1974. The Group was legally incorporated on April 1, 1975 under the name Anisinabe Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., though they continued to exhibit under the moniker PNIAI.

This “Group of Seven” was a ground-breaking cultural and political entity that self-organized to demand recognition as professional, contemporary artists. They challenged old constructs, and stimulated a new way of thinking about contemporary First Nations people, their lives, and art. 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. 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. The exhibition focuses exclusively on that crucial decade during which the seven artists were active as a group; exemplifying the range and diversity of work being produced by the PNIAI in the 1970s. The exhibition considers their collective artistic impact, as well as, the distinctive styles and experimentation of the individual artists.

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. was curated by Michelle LaVallee, MacKenzie Art Gallery Associate Curator.

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.

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. est organisée par la MacKenzie Art Gallery. Ce projet a été rendu possible grâce à une contribution du Programme d’aide aux musées du ministère du Patrimoine canadien. La MacKenzie Art Gallery reçoit l’appui continu du Conseil des arts du Canada, du Saskatchewan Arts Board, de SaskCulture, de la Ville de Regina et de l’Université de Regina.

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Alex Janvier, Wounded Knee Boy, 1972. Janvier Gallery.

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