Emily Kewageshig

Anishinaabe artist Emily Kewageshig, seen here at her new studio in Southampton, has been recruited to the Artist Ambassador Program for the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. Image supplied. 

Hub Staff

Dedication and hard work has led to many accomplishments for local Anishinaabe artist Emily Kewageshig. She graduated from Sheridan College with Honours in the Visual and Creative Arts Diploma Program and was awarded Best in Show for the graduation exhibit.

From Saugeen First Nation, Kewageshig had her first solo exhibition at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound this past summer. As she finishes her final year in a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from OCAD University, she has earned recognition from the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF).

An extension to their Legacy Schools program, the DWF has created the Artist Ambassador Program to help educate and inspire high school students to create change, acknowledge the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and further reconciliation. Kewageshig was named to the Program and joins the likes of Indigenous Director Alanis Obomsawin, Cree Singer Songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, Onyota'a:ka and French Art Maker and Visual Storyteller Monique Aura, Traditional Hoop Dancer James Jones/Notorious Cree, and many more.

It was in Grade 10 that Kewageshig realized her passion for art went beyond just a hobby. “It gave me a sense of fulfillment and purpose and pushed me to become more creative in all aspects of my life,” expressed Kewageshig in January 28 correspondence. Thankfully with the encouragement of her high school art teacher, Janice Sanagan, Kewageshig held on to this dream and eventually made it a reality.

“I am so honoured to be an Artist Ambassador for the Downie Wenjack program," Kewageshig said. "I hope to be the person I needed when I was young, I want to inspire First Nations students to pursue their dreams, no matter what it is,” she said.

Despite the support from her teacher, Kewageshig often heard that art was not a career path. “I want to teach them that with a good support system, determination and drive, anything is possible. This program will give me the opportunity to get that message out," she said.

Kewageshig described the importance of the Artist Ambassador Program and why it’s a powerful tool for the DWF in response to the late Gord Downie’s call for Canada to "do something", even in times of isolation, to make Canada a better place for Indigenous Peoples.

"Artists are the voices of communities," noted Kewageshig, adding, "Artists inspire and uplift us all. Art is critical in creating social change."

Kewageshig’s work draws heavily from her culture. “My place in this world as an artist is tied to my community and my family, and the paintings I create are a way to honour them,” she said and described her art as “a message of generational love, interconnection and cultural teachings."

"My voice as an artist is very reflective of my own personal experiences and upbringing," Kewageshig said. "I hope to make other First Nations people proud to be a part of such a vibrant and beautiful culture."

The title of Kewageshig’s exhibit at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, "Mooshknemgog Bmaadziwin: Full Circle," echoes her own artistic journey as she recently moved her work and family back to Saugeen after years of schooling in Toronto.

On February 1, she obtained her first studio in Southampton. Initially using the space as a private studio, Kewageshig hopes to open the doors to the public in May of 2021. “This was a huge step for me, I would have never imagined that my career would be at this point at 23 years old. I'm proud to represent Saugeen First Nation in our neighbouring town,” she said.

To view Kewageshig’s portfolio, visit

For more information on the DWF's Artist Ambassador Program, visit