Rebecca Baird & Kenny Baird
Kenny Alvin Baird
As a senior Nehiyaw Cree/Métis artist, my mixed-media presentations speak to the fluidity and interconnectedness of community while encouraging a contemplative understanding of one’s personal experience within a collective environment. My artistic methodology brings both an aesthetic sensibility and scholarly research to issues of authenticity, re-articulating, re-visioning and re-claiming Indigenous narratives through visual media processes that inspire contemplation and conversation.
I have exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions across Canada as well as internationally. Benchmark exhibitions at the forefront of recognition of Indigenous culture included From Sea to Shining Sea, 1987, The Power Plant, Toronto, which presented my mixed-media piece, “In the Centre Lies the Sky”. Indigena, 1992, former Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec, featured “Heartland” created in collaboration with multi-media artist Kenny Baird. Major works are represented in national and international collections including the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the former Museum of Civilization, Winnipeg Art Gallery and Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
My commitment to ‘participatory inclusion’ aims to create occasions for sharing processes that are the foundation of Indigenous ways of knowing. This commitment extends to presenting school workshops under the auspices of Urban Indigenous Education Centre (Toronto District School Board) and AGO, Expressing Aboriginal Cultures. As Co-Director of Tecumseh Arts Festival, I played a key role in its well-celebrated annual presentation at renowned Fort York from 2000-2007. This unique event featured a three-day dawn to dusk program that included a multidisciplinary roster of performances by Native drummers, dancers, storytellers and filmmakers. The lively, informative and highly visual festival also presented month-long site specific art installations created by such distinguished contemporary First Nations visual artists as Robert Houle, Rebecca Belmore, Bonnie Devine, Maria Hupfield, and the late Joanne Cardinal-Shubert. The enthusiastically applauded Indigenous entertainment presented over the years of the festival highlighted traditional drum groups Northern Cree, Eagle Heart and the Old Mush Singers with storytellers Duke Redbird, Janet Rogers and preeminent filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin adding a rich tableau of Indigenous cultural experiences to the highly-praised and well remembered Tecumseh Arts Festival, that was co-directed with artist Philip Cote.
An interest in public artwork began with The Great Mystery, commissioned by Queen West Community Health Centre, Toronto, 1996. Its colourful mural evokes an inviting sense of well-being, harmony and balance. Open Sky, 2001, Lester B. Pearson Airport, was commissioned by Greater Toronto Airport Authority and is on permanent display in the waiting area for Jazz Airline which serves Northern Ontario’s remote Indigenous communities. The painting represents the flora, fauna, sky and the overarching cosmos of the north. The Gathering of the Clans, 2015, presented a mosaic piece portraying the seven original clans of the Anishnaabe people depicting their form of governance that survives to this day. The work is on permanent display at Todmorden Mills in Toronto, and was created in collaboration with artist Philip Cote and Red Pepper Spectacle Arts and provides a site for gatherings and public events.
Recent public artworks include All My Relations, CAMH, Toronto, 2018 and Star Blanket, The King/Liberty Bridge Project, Toronto, 2019 and North Star for the Woodbine Casino Expansion Project, Rexdale. Very recently, in October of 2022, Myseum of Toronto commissioned Playwright Caroline Azar with Theatre Impresario Franco Boni to collaborate and construct a docu-historical walking account, based on mine and brother Kenny Baird's involvement in the underground punk and new wave art movement of Queen West (77-83). This interactive free public walking experience illuminated the arc of our early artwork of Sculptural installation, Glasswork, Painting and Super 8, all the whilst being a part of Arts Hubs like The Funnel, The Parrot, Art Metropole, The Cameron, The Rivoli, and The Queen Mother.
Over a span of 4 decades, Kenny has established a reputation in design media, from film art direction, costume and wig styling, display installation to graphic layout.
In addition to this commercial work, siblings Rebecca and Kenny Baird have nurtured a lifelong collaborative art practice with common interest towards the understanding of their Cree ancestry. This self-taught process runs in tandem with an instinctual desire to fabricate and refer to both inspirational and perplexing discoveries that provide a guide to a sense of directional maturity.
There remains a history of chaptered exhibitions culled from intervening periods in each other’s lives. These include collaboration with artist friends, musicians, video/film directors and architects that manifest in ever expanding mediums from thematic installation, painting and objects, graphics and photo collage to film and
Visit http://www.kennyalvinbaird.com/ for his detailed CV.
Credit: Myseum of Toronto