Art in Action - Mekinawewin, to give a gift

Prospect artists in the Art in Action program had the unique opportunity last week to participate in an inspiring and hands-on collaboration with artist Tamara Lee-Ann Cardinal at the Untitled Art Society studios. The Art in Action group was fully engaged and intrigued in her artistic process and were honored to contribute to Tamara’s new project, Mekinawewin, to give a gift.

More about the project:

Tobacco is the first offering; it is given to Okâwîmâwaskiy, a gesture of respect for what she provides, before we take anything from her. After ceremony, one gives everything they can—all gifts—to those who bore witness. Gifts are one of the most important forms of exchange in Cree culture; gifts are given always with a heart, full.

'Mekinawewin, to give a gift' is a three month-long project by Tamara Lee-Anne Cardinal that focusses on the role gifting plays in contemporary forms of exchange. Throughout the project, Cardinal will be building new work in the gallery space, in conjunction with hosting several workshops with community organizations. This project will employ artistic materials that have played a role in Cardinal’s practice—plants, tea, leather, sinew—reconfigured into new arrangements, as a means to access stories related to traditional and non-traditional giving, and non-Eurocentric historical narratives. Particularly, the artist will be consulting with Elders, Knowledge Holders, and members of the tribal nations of Treaties 6, 7 and 8, as well as members of the Métis Nation of Alberta throughout the duration of this project. Through these conversations, and using hand-made paper proffered from the community workshops, Cardinal will be building a timeline of Alberta, through an Indigenous epistemology that considers the history of this land before contact until now.

About the Artist:

Tamara Lee-Anne Cardinal is a multimedia artist, community activist, and perpetual learner. Born in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, she has been a visitor to Mohkínstsis (Calgary) for seven years. Cardinal traces her ancestral roots back to both the Saddle Lake Cree Nation and the once-German occupied lands of Ukraine. Graduating from ACAD in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture, Cardinal has since been a recipient of the National BMO Art! Competition Award as well as the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Award in 2017. Her work was featured in the Alberta Biennial in 2017 at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton; her first solo exhibition "One New Work: Tamara Lee-Anne Cardinal Feet on the Ground" was at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, in 2018. Cardinal’s work continues to be a reflection of the teachings she receives along her journey; it is an invitation for others to become a part of the process, to partake in its making.

About Untitled Art Society:

Untitled Art Society is situated on land within the Treaty 7 agreement, which was signed in 1877 at Blackfoot Crossing on present-day Siksika Nation. Moh’kins’tsis—the place where the Elbow River joins the Bow—has been the traditional territory of the Blackfoot, comprising the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai First Nations for many thousands of years; this land is also home to the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations), whose presence here predates the signing of Treaty 7. Southern Alberta is also the traditional home of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III, and today is the place where many other Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island gather. We acknowledge that our presence here must be accompanied by respect for the land and for the people who have cared for it for many millennia. 

Founded in 1994, Untitled Art Society is a not-for-profit artist-run centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Throughout the history of our organization, UAS has strived to support artists in diverse ways from the provision of much-needed subsidized studio space in Calgary’s downtown area, to the organization’s ardent support of emerging artists through our rigorous, innovative, and nationally- and internationally-recognized exhibition programming and contemporary art projects, presented both in and outside of our main gallery space. Such programming is buttressed by an ambitious program of workshops, artist talks, film screenings, educational outreach and publishing activities, all with the goal of supporting the work of emerging artists through providing opportunities for research, development, production and presentation to diverse publics that our organization serves. While Untitled Art Society is free and open to all members of the public the building is not wheelchair accessible.

Social Media Accounts:

IG: @tamaralacardinal

FB Event:

UAS Website:

If you would like to arrange an artist talk and/or collaboration with us, please email and ask about the “Art in Action” program.

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