Expression through art
Instructor expands students' horizons

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Feb 25/00) - When Francine Green arrived in Fort Simpson in July, she quickly recognized the wealth of artistic talent in the community.

"That was the first thing that struck me," she said. "I said, 'There is so much talent here, why isn't there a co-operative or society of artists?'"

What was an obvious course of action to Green has since become a reality. The Open Sky Creative Society has been formed and an exhibition is scheduled in conjunction with Beavertail Jamboree next month.

Green, an established artist with collectors in England, Scotland, Japan and Costa Rica, came to Fort Simpson at the urging of a friend. It didn't take much urging, as the North was a part of the world she had always wanted to see.

"It's always intrigued me," she said. "The people are nice, welcoming."

By September she found herself teaching a credit course in art through Aurora College. The class isn't restricted to painting and sculpting either. Rather, those with traditional craft, literary and musical talent are warmly received, she noted. Art, she added, is more than a creation on canvas or in clay or soapstone.

"Art is one of those wonderful things that helps you express yourself in a way that doesn't hurt other people and doesn't hurt you -- actually, it's healing," she said in a room filled with posters detailing artistic principles such as balance, form, line, contrast and rhythm.

She suggested that is also a viable means to problem solving. For example, she was once involved in a project to teach a team of senior management officials how to draw, helping them devise different approaches and creative ways to overcome obstacles.

Green would also like to dispel the stereotype that artists are lazy.

"There's no one who works harder than someone who's creative," she said, "because they have to find ways to support themselves so they can continue to be creative."

Speaking from her own experience, she has done stints at McDonald's, cleaning offices and working in a law office to keep herself going. At other times her art, described as uniquely "lyrical/figurative," has sold very well. She even has a piece in the basement of the Orsay Museum in Paris.

"When I get to Paris I check to see if it's still there," she laughed.

Tonya Makletzoff, a renowned Fort Simpson artist, said Green's class has taught her how to use watercolours and she even created her own calendar with them. As well, she said her paintings are less harsh, softer.

"It's good to have a mentor," she remarked.

The class and the Open Sky Creative Society were much needed for artists in Fort Simpson, who were accustomed to working out of their makeshift studio bedrooms and basements, according to Makletzoff.

"It's a place to nourish the artist's soul," she said.

Green added that it helps them through creative doldrums by collectively "giving the positive support that's so necessary."