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Stories and art mix at GNAF
Artists glad festival still alive, despite budget challenges

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Thursday, July 20, 2017

Twenty-nine Great Northern Arts Festivals ago, Antoine Mountain was selling his artwork, and he's still here today.

NNSL photograph

Antoine Mountain, from Fort Good Hope, painted this piece at the Great Northern Arts Festival. It is a moose with a person sitting by the fire. "It's called Maybe Tomorrow," said Mountain. "The person is thinking of having better luck the next day, which is the story of my dating life. But I'm usually pretty successful at hunting." - Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

"The venue was pretty small," remembers Mountain, from Fort Good Hope. "There weren't a lot of artists."

He paints impressionist pieces with acrylics on canvas.

"We spent most of our time in the Eskimo Inn," recalled Mountain.

"That was back in my drinking days. We'd sit in the bar and if somebody sold something, we would all rush over and that person would cash a cheque and start buying the rounds. Now, drinking is not allowed here. I think they made all the rules around the original group. We were the artist guinea pigs. We set the pattern of how not to."

He started making artwork when he was young and is now on the road to a PhD from Trent University.

"We used to go up in the mountains from Fort Good Hope, and they would make a mooseskin boat and that's how we came back down to the river," said Mountain. "There were no pencils or papers at our camps, so I just used charcoal from the fire on blocks of wood. Eventually, all my artwork ended up in the fire."

Since then, he's made yearbook covers for many schools and specialized in his impressionist style. Most of his family members make art, though more so with textiles.

One day into the festival, Mountain was happy to have sold a painting to a pilot from Vancouver.

NNSL photograph

Catherine Cockney holds up some of her beaded work. This is her second year as an artist in the Great Northern Arts Festival.

He was glad to see GNAF still running even though funding opportunities in the

community seem to have dried up.

"Any kind of art represents the health of a community," said Mountain. "That's what it's all about. Any culture or community that has artwork is a vibrant, healthy community.

"It allows the community to breathe just like a person needs to breathe."

Catherine Cockney makes beaded items, such as brooches. This is her second year at GNAF.

"It's mainly a hobby," said Cockney. "When I was growing up, I would help my mother sew and she would sew crafts for sale."

The intricate work involved in beading is time-consuming and the material cost can be high, she said. Still, she thinks someone could make it into a full-time job.

"If you put on workshops and craft sales, I think somebody could make a living out of doing their crafts," said Cockney, who had just finished up her first workshop of the festival.

She enjoys beading because of its calming effect.

"It gives me something to do, rather than sitting around and watching TV or playing games," she said.

Though there are fewer artists on display this year, GNAF is still worth having, she said.

"It's great. I've met a lot of people," said Cockney. "People ask a lot of questions and are very interested in what we do here."

The festival will close Sunday, July 23.

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