Nationally-recognized artist George Littlechild’s work was honoured in his return to Red Deer to start National Truth and Reconciliation Week.
The 65-year-old Red Deer Polytechnic alum returned to the city for the first time in 38 years on Monday, as the post-secondary institution unveiled his artwork 4 Star Art Warrior, which has been gifted to RDP’s permanent art collection.
“It’s a huge honour,” Littlechild said after the unveiling at RDP’s Arts Centre.
“To see my painting will live on here, that’s a huge deal because this doesn’t happen to everybody.”
Littlechild was born in Edmonton, of Plans Cree heritage with connections to the Maskwacis Nations. As a child, he was taken from his home as part of the ’60s scoop and was raised in foster homes.
In 1982, Littlechild began attending Red Deer College – he received his diploma in Art and Design in 1984. Since then, he has had his art exhibited across the world, including in Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.
There’s something special about Indigenous artwork, said Littlechild.
“All art stands out, but with Indigenous art there’s something that’s very unique, something very special, something that makes it have that voice and makes it strong,” he said.
The Students’ Association of RDP, public employees of RDP and the RDP Alumni Association purchased the artwork for $12,000. The piece, a self-portrait of Littlechild, will be on display just inside the main campus’ front entrance.
Trina Carroll, former president of CUPE local 1445, connected with RDP’s permanent art collection curator Robin Lambert about purchasing an art piece to display on campus.
“We wanted to provide an Indigenous piece,” Carroll explained. She was interested in purchasing an Indigenous artist’s work because fewer than 100 pieces in RDP’s 1,200-piece collection are done by Indigenous artists.
Upon seeing possible pieces to purchase, Littlechild’s 4 Star Art Warrior stood out from the rest.
Erin Bast, SARDP president, said Littlechild’s artwork is a welcome addition to the campus.
“We knew we needed to better represent … Indigenous people at RDP. This gift for students, staff and faculty was just a wonderful idea. We were happy to hop on board,” said Bast.
Alex Fuiten, with the RDP Alumni Association, said the association’s board was excited to be a part of the purchase of an alumni’s artwork.
“It’s always great when we’re able to showcase the talent of the people who come here and have gone on to do amazing things. To be able to bring something back was (a way) to show students that these are the things that are possible,” said Fuiten.
Stuart Cullum, RDP president, said it’s exciting to have Littlechild’s work “prominently displayed” on campus.
“It’s an amazing piece and it’s Indigenous art, which is important to us. We have around 80 pieces of Indigenous art in our collection, so we want to continue to grow that,” said Cullum.
Cullum said acknowledging National Truth and Reconciliation Week is important for the institution.
“There will be events and different things happening all the way through the week, while we increase our knowledge and think about how we as an institution, as individuals, as a community can act to address truth and reconciliation,” he said.