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Ready for tourist season

Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 16, 2009

ENTERPRISE - The cold winter and the scaled-down operations at some of the territory's mines slowed traffic along the highway through Enterprise in the past few months, but the folks at Winnie's Dene Art Gallery are keeping busy this month as the business prepares for spring.

"There has been a fair amount of inter-community travel, which is nice," said gallery owner Winnie Cadieux.

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Fort Smith artist Michael Labine supplies Winnie's Dene Art Gallery in Enterprise with traditional hide drums and caribou antler rattles. - photo courtesy of Winnie Cadieux

"Spring is just such a reaffirmation of life and coming alive and you throw the doors open and you appreciate everything that you have. In the spring we get into inventory and rearranging and touching everything up, and we appreciate the work and skill that the artisans have."

Last season the gallery underwent a major spring reorganization, opening up new exhibit space and painting walls in soft yellow hues to surround the gallery with a sense of birch bark.

Real birch bark decorates the shelves, as well. Baskets embellished with dyed porcupine quills, made by Celine Edda of Fort Laird, line several shelves.

Fused glass designs by Fort Smith artist Michael Labine greet visitors as they enter the retail space. The swirls of colour, arranged like the aurora borealis, glisten in the brightly-lit foyer. Labine also has musical instruments made from traditional materials in the shop.

Works of carved antler by Winnie's brother-in-law, Dolphus Cadieux, are in stock. In 1999, Dolphus carved the fountain-sized bowl that fills a corner of the gallery. Carved from billion-year-old, fossil-speckled, glacier-spun marble, the artwork is a favourite among regular visitors. Many people spend time caressing its smooth, cold surface while exploring the gallery, Winnie said.

Pointalism sketches by Fort Providence artist Johnny Farcy also hang in the gallery. Farcy's art depicts images of Northern wildlife and scenes from traditional hunting camps. One combines a variety of indigenous flora.

Among the rarest pieces on display this month are some traditional six-foot-long dog whips created from braided caribou hide by Richard Andrew of Tulita. The handmade wooden handle is covered in multicoloured wool. Andrew also makes detailed replicas of dog sleds and traditional harnesses.

Winnie and her staff will soon begin their annual spring spruce up.

"We're hoping to incorporate different shelving arrangements and work on display space," she said. "We're looking forward to the tourists and to introducing them to part of the culture we get to enjoy year-round."