“Building community through art”: Meet the Library's new Indigenous Artist in Residence

As soon as you set foot in Mackenzie Brown’s studio at Central Library, it’s clear that their artistry is vast. A moose skull with fully intact antlers is in the early stages of being given new life, beautiful landscapes brushed with bright acrylic paint sit on their desk, and touches of Caribou fur tufting are spread throughout the space. 

Brown is the newest Indigenous Artist in Residence at the Library and brings years of experience in numerous artistic mediums to the role. She looks forward to connecting with the Mohkinstsis, Calgary community, and sharing how land and language can influence art practice. 

“I'm a community worker. I believe in building community through art. I also really believe in the mission and the vision of what Calgary Public Library does,” Brown says. 

Artistic influences 

Growing up in northern Alberta, Brown has been immersed in art, culture, and music for as long as she can remember. Their mother was a music teacher, and also an Indigenous liaison and arts and crafts person for the school system. Brown assisted their mother in classes like beadworking growing up and continues to drum and sing with her in their group Warrior Women. 

Brown’s artistic style is a balance between traditional and contemporary. Their rich family history and upbringing are incorporated into what she creates. The pieces she’s currently working on — as well as the guidance she will give others during her Library residency — shares stories while provoking thoughtful conversations.  

“I'm doing a couple multimedia pieces, like the moose skull I’m working on. Growing up, we had moose. This is part of how the land influenced me. But then also some other pieces I'm going to be working on are going to be some fine art pieces, based around star creation stories. I even want to do a little bit of music, too,” Brown says about their plans during their residency.  

A moment of serendipity

Brown’s Cree name is Kamâmak, which means butterfly. Butterflies have the ability to go through darkness and come out bright and colourful. It serves as a reminder to give themselves the space they need to flutter and be where they need to be.  

Brown recently decided to quit a corporate job to focus more on art. In their last week of the job, the Library offered them the Indigenous Artist in Residency position. For Brown, it felt like the universe was saying the residency was meant to be and they were making the right choice.  

There are lots of aspects of the Library that Brown has embraced, including the feeling of community. They hope to see lots of patrons during their office hours available at Central Library and is looking forward to upcoming programming at community locations. 

“I think that crafts are such an approachable way for people to learn about different cultures. I did my degree in child and youth care and my practice was utilizing Indigenous art to work with children and youth, so I'm super excited to do workshops for kids, teens and adults. I love working with anybody who wants to learn a new skill.” 

Brown’s residency will continue until the end of May, finishing off with a Final Showcase and Drum Experience on May 30. They encourage everyone to visit their office hours and explore their upcoming programs: 

Turtle Island Craft (Ages 4 - 7) 
Sunday, March 31 | Bowness Library | 1:00 – 2:00 pm 

Applique Beading Bookmarks (Ages 18+) 
Thursday, April 18 | Judith Umbach Library | 6:30 – 8:00 pm 

Quill Boxes and Cards (Ages 13 - 17)  
Friday, April 19 | Shawnessy Library | 4:00 – 5:00 pm 

Turtle Island Craft (Ages 7- 10) 
Monday, May 27 | Crowfoot Library | 6:00 – 7:00 pm 


About the Library Residency Programs 

There are eight residencies that take place at Calgary Public Library each year. These short-term community engagement initiatives support individuals and collectives living and working in Calgary and surrounding First Nations communities. Learn more the Indigenous Artist in Residency on our website. 

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