Le Metis - March 14, 2024

March 14, 2024

2023 Indspire recipient brings art back to her community

Red River Métis artist Ruby Bruce has been passionate about the arts for as long as she can remember.

From a young age, Ruby Bruce did everything she could to capture and recreate her world in her own artistic style. As early as she can remember, drawing and colouring were some of her favourite activities. As she got older, she began to observe the world around her - the people in her life, the places she had been, and what it meant to navigate the world as a Red River Métis Citizen.

"I believe I've always been an artist at heart. My ideology is that some people are innately artists and creatives, it's a unique way their minds work. While anyone can learn a skill, having a passion for it or a natural talent to perceive the world in a creative way isn't something everyone has," she said.

Hoping to evoke emotion that transcends you to a place of childlike nostalgia, Bruce now creates art that is filled with bright colours and bold imagery. Her take on contemporary Indigenous pop art takes art enthusiasts on a journey that highlights her Red River Métis background in a captivating way.

"Growing up in the community of St. Laurent, my Red River Métis identity has been not just a part of me but the foundation of my being, and has significantly impacted what I create and what I see and experience as an artist," she said.

Bruce uses her personal experiences as a Red River Métis woman, student, and mother to further connect with her art.

"My creations are manifestations of my life's experiences, the things I've seen, and the emotions I've felt, which is ultimately my experience as a Métis woman. The Indigenous lands, the local fauna and flora, are historically mine, and they physically, spiritually, and intrinsically are the lifeblood that courses through my veins, inspiring my art with a passion that is as infinite as the prairie skies and the Métis flag."

In June 2023, Bruce was the Youth recipient of the Indspire Award, which honours First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals and their achievements across a variety of categories. The artist recognized this award as a huge honour for her and her community.

Bruce credits much of her success to the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) and the role they have had in her
development as a student, mother, and artist.

"This award demonstrates that with a bit of self-determination and mutual support, amazing things can happen," she said. "Receiving this award instils in me an enormous sense of pride in myself as a resilient Indigenous woman, as a Red River Métis, and as a girl with a dream."

The Youth sees her win not only as an accomplishment for herself, but a victory for her community, Red River Métis Youth pursuing the arts, and importantly, her inner child.

"It shows to the world our strength and the incredible things we're capable of. I can imagine a little Ruby shouting, 'we did it! We really did it,'" she said. "And that thought brings tears to my eyes and fills my heart with happiness."

Recipients of the Indspire Award had the chance to take part in an evening reception, dinner, and post-reception celebration where stories and accomplishments of past and present winners were shared with guests throughout the night. Bruce was in good company, with Red River Métis artist Jennine Krauchi also receiving an award that same year.

"It was an extraordinary experience to meet such remarkable Indigenous individuals from all over Canada. The experience felt almost like a dream, and I am deeply honoured to have been welcomed there," Bruce said. "Meeting such incredible people and being regarded as somewhat of an equal by them was unreal. My favourite part of the event was being able to meet them and listen to their stories, and how these stories interconnect."

Having the chance to collaborate with other Red River Métis Citizens has held great significance to the artist.

"It's deeply gratifying when my own community acknowledges and seeks to elevate me, and I am eager to reciprocate that support. The chance to share my artwork through communal channels not only fills me with pride but also reinforces my sense of belonging and collective identity (and) community," she said.

Bruce recently worked with Marika Schalla, Red River Métis author and past Indspire Award winner, on the book Stella Welcome To Your Doodem.

"Marika Schalla and I share a familial bond and have collaborated on creating short stories for many years. We were motivated by a desire to bring our visions to reality, and we embarked on publishing our first book," she said.

The book centres on the pair's great-grandmothers and explores themes of family, culture, and passions, molded from the artists' shared experiences.

In addition to her collaborative efforts, the Red River Métis artist has facilitated Youth art workshops in St. Laurent, where she continues to see positive impacts on the community.

"Since my teenage years, I've been organizing and leading art and cultural workshops. The amount of positive feedback I've received for my workshops has always astounded me. To this day, I am amazed that participants genuinely enjoy them and learn something from them," she said.

In her workshops, Bruce teaches basic art techniques, Indigenous perspectives, and concepts like food sovereignty through the creation of art, cultural items, and much more.

The best part of these workshops has been the relationships she has built with the Youth and the inspiration they take from participating in her classes.

"I've had students say, 'Miss Bruce, I want to be just like you. I'm going to be just like you,' and those words fill me with such joy. The idea that I inspire these Youth to chase their dreams, that I'm able to offer encouragement to those who might not have received it elsewhere, makes me feel almost superhuman. I'm making a positive impact," she said.

When Bruce is not teaching, she serves as the co-founder and member of the St. Laurent Art Space Committee. The group was formed as a response to the noticeable absence of artistic opportunities within the community, with hopes of fostering a vibrant art scene.

Bruce is also involved with Heartberry Education, an innovative venture founded by Marika Schalla providing educational resources through Indigenous cultural perspectives.

"Here, I dedicate my efforts to co-creating and leading educational cultural workshops, alongside contributing my skills in graphic design and illustration," she said.

Bruce credits much of her success to the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) and its role in her development as a student, mother, and artist.

"They have supported me in numerous ways, from assisting with my college education to accepting me as a Métis Youth delegate at their Annual (General Assembly), to providing me and my child a bit of excitement and happiness through their My Little Métis Box," she said.

However, the highlight of Bruce's MMF support thus far has come from the encouragement of a prominent Cabinet Minister who extended an artistic opportunity to her during her early years.

"In elementary, Mona Buors was my teacher. She is currently the Minister responsible for Métis Child and Family Services at the Manitoba Métis Federation. She presented me with a big artistic opportunity at a young age," Bruce said. "The experience still holds a special place in my heart as a source of inspiration to this day. She recognized and nurtured my artistic abilities."

Minister Buors offered Bruce and her classmates the opportunity to create two murals for the MMF.

"This experience influenced me and was a key motivator in my young artistic journey. Reflecting on this memory fills me with pride and happiness at my accomplishments at such a young age. Looking back, I was very fortunate to have (Minister Buors) as a teacher," Bruce said.

The encouragement to pursue her talents throughout her life has helped Bruce to face the critiques of others, limited access to resources, and self-doubt. She hopes the work she does will inspire other Red River Métis Youth to further explore their artistic abilities.

"One of the main things that has helped me throughout my artistic journey is self-determination. Self-determination is a core aspect of being Red River Métis," she said. "Louis Riel once said, 'My people will sleep for one hundred years, (but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back).' This statement not only shows the transformative power of art, but also the role that you, as young Métis artists, play in the resurgence and preservation of our culture."

Bruce describes being an artist as a gift - a legacy handed down by our ancestors. She hopes other Red River Métis Youth continue pursuing their own gifts.

"It is a treasure that I hope you will share with the world through your beautiful artwork. Art goes beyond expression; it serves as a powerful medium of communication, bridging time and space and connecting the stories, traditions, and wisdom of our ancestors. It carries a sacred duty, acting as a tool between our past and the generations yet to come," she said. "Let self-determination be your guiding principle. Embrace the unique stories and perspectives that only you can tell, drawing inspiration from our history and culture and land and people and spirit."

MMF hosts Red River Métis Child Care Conference

On March 2, the Manitoba Métis Federation hosted a Red River Métis Child Care Conference, where early learning and child care professionals joined us for a full day of Red River Métis-focused child care learning. The event featured keynote speakers and workshops teaching land-based education, discussion panels, mental wellness and inclusion sessions, and more!

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