Hire an Artist, Build a Neighbourhood
"It’s not exactly standard practice for a real estate development company to have an artist residency. But we’re not exactly standard developers."
There’s a creative new vibe around the Shift office these days. And it’s not just because we’ve moved into a sunny new office on the second floor of The Two Twenty. We’re excited to announce that we have a new Artist in Residence: Kevin Pee-ace.
Laying the foundation
We came upon Kevin Pee-ace’s work serendipitously. The Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company (now called Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre) used to own the building that now houses The Two Twenty. When we bought the building, SNTC owned two of Kevin’s works, and we were instant fans. When SNTC decided they had to sell the works, we eagerly jumped at the opportunity. The paintings ended up in our home; and looking at those works has the rare power to uplift me as immediately as music can.
Fast forward to 2015. On a complete whim, I sent Curtis and our two young boys to an art sale at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where Kevin and other Indigenous artists were selling their work. Curtis and Kevin had a great conversation, and soon Curtis was connecting Kevin with friends and commissioning new work for The Two Twenty, eager to help spread the word about an artist whose work we so admired. Their relationship evolved, and when a studio in the basement of The Two Twenty became available, we offered Kevin the space.
Introducing Kevin Peeace
Kevin was born in Kelvington, SK and is a member of the Yellowquill First Nation. He came to painting by watching his uncle, the well-known visual artist Jerry Whitehead. For years, he watched as a young apprentice, until he finally decided to take up the paintbrush on his own. He trained at a fine arts studio diploma program at UCFV Abbotsford in British Columbia and has explored various programs in art history, archaeology, anthropology and native studies at the University of Saskatchewan. It took awhile for him to develop his signature style—but now his bright canvases and uplifting message can’t be mistaken.
According to Native Art in Canada, Kevin's current works, often depicting mother and child with floral motifs, emphasize the importance of family, tradition and respect for his culture and heritage: "These paintings are a tribute to my mother, who was my guide, my grandmother for her strength in cultural beliefs, and my children for the inspiration they give me" (Pee-ace).
There's so much more to Kevin's story, including how his residential school experiences impacted his early years. He'll be sharing his story with The Two Twenty community, and we look forward to passing that along to you through our blog. Visit Riversdale Love or The Two Twenty on Facebook for information about upcoming events.
Why an Artist Residency?
It’s not exactly standard practise for a real estate development company to have an artist residency. But we’re not exactly standard developers. We spend a lot of time thinking about the lifestyles we're fostering and the communities we become part of when we undergo a project. From our earliest beginnings, Shift Development has collaborated with artists, musicians, dancers and more, because we know that a building is simply a building. We can create the right conditions for creativity, connection and collaboration--but it's the artists who actually bring people together, animate a space, and tell its stories.
We know this to be true, partly because we are artists and musicians (though with 2 little babes at home, the touring van has been traded in for a Boler). We are also part of a global trend in Creative Placemaking: "an evolving field of practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place" (artscapediy.org) We want Riversdale and other neighbourhoods we work in to exude a strong local identity and sense of place because there are artists collaborating and creating there.
When you think about it this way, all real estate developers should have artist residencies.
One of the most interesting residencies I’ve come across is the Neighbourhood Time Exchange curated by Justin Langlois which brings together artists and community to “dream up creative community-led projects for the neighbourhood.” This residency realizes that creative work can foster community-building and tackle urban issues in an interesting way. (Read Riversdale Love’s blog about initiating such a residency in Riversdale.)
Riversdale Love is the community development arm of what we do, and its goals revolve around sharing the benefits of revitalization with the broader community. Certainly artists can have a significant role to play in bridging diverse communities, animating underused public spaces, envisioning the future of a neighbourhood, and mentorship.
Kevin will be involved in Riversdale Love activities, speaking at an upcoming Two Twenty gathering, and participating in events. We look forward to evolving the program organically and helping each other out along the way. In the meantime, we'd also LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
How do you think an artist can contribute to community-building? What kinds of projects would you like to see launched in Riversdale? Submit here. All ideas welcome and will be shared on our Facebook page. Let's start a conversation.