OAF News

Algonquin Master Canoe Builder Honoured with Ontario Arts Foundation Artist Educator Award

Toronto, January 21, 2019 - Chuck Commanda is the recipient of the $10,000 Ontario Arts Foundation Artist Educator AwardThe award is given annually to an Ontario resident who exemplifies excellence in arts education, and was presented today at a Birch Bark Basket workshop led by Commanda at the Kumik Elders Lodge in Gatineau, Quebec.

About Chuck Commanda

Chuck Commanda (fourth from left) with students from Smith Falls District Collegiate Institute, birch bark canoe workshop, 2018.

Commanda is an Algonquin Master Canoe Builder from the community of Kitigan Zibi, where he spent time on the land and learned to build birch bark canoes as a child under the guidance of his grandparents. He has been building canoes as a full-time artist for the past ten years and shares this passion with his students. He has a strong commitment to equity, drawn from the seven sacred teachings - love, wisdom, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth. He believes that his medium of canoe-building lends itself to inclusive artistic and pedagogical practices that can at once raise awareness of Indigenous culture, art and life while also bringing people of all backgrounds together.

For Commanda, canoe building allows him to connect with his ancestors and revitalize Algonquin communities and languages and as an educator he then passes this knowledge on to younger generations. In addition to producing beautiful pieces of art of incredible cultural functional and artistic value, canoe-building also embodies the use of cultural arts to transmit Indigenous knowledge among peoples and between generations in the spirit of reconciliation.

Jury Comments

The jury was deeply moved by this artist and his work, and stated, “In his work with young learners, Commanda teaches skill and technique but more importantly he teaches respect and connection – connection to land, to stories, to culture and to people. Commanda’s practice is rooted in reconciliation and is inclusive of all. You can see the impact on the faces of the participants when they get to try out the canoe in real life. It’s amazing!”

This year’s jury consisted of Christian Chapman, artist educator, mixed-media artist (Fort William First Nation), Audrey Hudson, artist, arts educator and researcher (Toronto), and Michelle Soullière, multidisciplinary artist educator (Windsor).

About the Award

The Ontario Arts Foundation established and manages the endowment that funds the Artist Educator Award. The award recognizes an Ontario resident who exemplifies excellence in arts education, demonstrates a unique approach to their arts education practice, creates meaningful learning experiences for young people, inspires connections to the arts beyond the classroom and continues to maintain an active arts practice.

The winner is chosen through a nominating and adjudication process managed by the Ontario Arts Council. OAC juries nominate artists from the current year’s applicants to the OAC Engaging Communities and Schools programs.

Previous recipients include Lorrie Gallant (2015), Jamaal Rogers (2016), and Yaovi Hoyi (2017).


 For more information, please contact:

Alan Walker
Executive Director, Ontario Arts Foundation
Tel: (416) 969-7413

 Established in 1991, the Ontario Arts Foundation (OAF) is passionately committed to building long-term support for the arts in Ontario. In 2017-2018, the OAF paid over $3.35 million in endowment income and $260,000 in awards and scholarships.

For more than 50 years, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) has played a vital role in promoting and assisting the development of the arts for the enjoyment and benefit of Ontarians. In 2017-2018 the Ontario Arts Council invested $58.7 million in 231 communities across Ontario through 2,294 grants to individual artists and 1,474 grants to organizations. 

 Ce document existe ègalement en français.


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