Something a bit unusual for Slave Lake

Original art piece unveiled at special event

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Michael Lonechild, of the White Bear First Nations in Saskatchewan is an artist well known in his home province, but probably not so much in northern Alberta. At least The Leader had never heard of him, until local realtor Jim Sparks clued us in.

As it turns out, Sparks got acquainted with Lonechild’s work on a visit a couple of years ago to White Bear, which is located in the southeast part of Saskatchewan.

“I saw some of his paintings at the casino,” he says, “and I loved them.”

Jumping to the end of the story, last week Sparks organized a special event for the unveiling of a Lonechild original painting, which now hangs on the wall of the Century 21 Northern Realty office in Slave Lake. An invited crowd enjoyed lunch, got to chat with the artist himself, and see the 8’ x 4’ painting for the first time as it was revealed.

In other words – not the kind of thing that happens very often in Slave Lake, Alberta.

Sparks says he is fond of Indigenous art and artefacts – that sort of thing. He also has a good friend who happened to be working as CAO of White Bear; that’s why Sparks ended up visiting the place, and seeing Lonechild’s work for the first time. He bought a print, and subsequently got the idea to see if Lonechild would do a painting on order.

“I commissioned the idea,” Sparks says. “The impact I wanted it to have.”

Some time later, he got an email from Lonechild, with a picture of the painting.

“My face dropped,” Sparks says. “It’s a beautiful piece, but not what I had in mind.”

He hesitated to respond (but only for a day). Then he reached out to the artist, very apologetic, saying he’d still buy the painting, but….

“That’s okay!” he says Lonechild told him. “I sold it yesterday!”

Then, just a few weeks ago, Sparks heard from Lonechild again. He was working on a much bigger piece, and showed him a picture of the work in progress.

“Stunning,” is how Sparks describes it, and, “very exciting.”

So then he started planning to make an event out of it, with the artist in attendance. Lonechild agreed to make the trip and deliver the painting himself.

The big reveal

Michael Lonechild’s latest painting, revealed last week at the Century 21 office in Slave Lake. Left to right are Cheryl Bloomer and Jim Sparks (the new owners of the painting) and artist Lonechild and his wife Cheryl Mosquito.

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