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Teaching the process of stone carving

By Admin User on December 13, 2019

Storytelling has always been a part of the cultural identity of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Stories are told to teach lessons, strengthen cultural ties, to entertain, and to keep history alive.

Canada Council for the Arts

Leo Arcand is one aboriginal artist who tells stories through stone carvings. Sculpting since 1991, Arcand’s considered a master sculptor by Edmonton’s Bearclaw Gallery.

Specifically a Woodland Cree sculptor, Leo is from Alexander First Nations reserve – just 40 km North of Edmonton. Arcand brings growth to his community by educating people on carving stone. 

“So far I have 9 that I’m teaching, there’s 4 right now that are able to go into the studio without me being there and produce a piece of art. To me, that was my goal. Once they have that ability, once they learn the process they’ll never forget it,” says Leo.

Although Leo says he’s accomplished his goal as a stone carving instructor, there’s still work to be done and people in his community to be taught.

“Some of them it really makes them proud, gives them a sense of belonging and direction.”

Leo Arcand, Woodland Cree Sculptor

Jorel Paul, one of Leo’s students, elaborates on the positive effects of practicing the craft saying, “It’s something to get your mind off of everyday life, just to go out and carve. I was fighting depression for a little while and it really helped me.”

Leo says there are four things that happen when learning to shape stone. Becoming more physically and mentally active is number one and two. Embracing emotions and spirituality is three and four and is just as necessary for creating sculptures according to Leo. 

“Emotions are just automatically going to come out because your body’s working with your mind – you’re not just going to sit there and chip away without thinking about anything. Whatever’s personally going through someone’s mind is going to come out.”

“All of his pieces are straight from the heart.”

Julia Cardinal, Leo’s daughter

Leo’s accomplishment is one of many, but his teaching career is not over. Plans are being made to open a community studio on the Alexander First Nations reserve in the near future.

“There’s a lot of people out here that are all for it,” said Jorel.

Leo’s other art career accomplishments:

  • Commissioned by the Trudeau government to sculpt 12 pieces. Justin Trudeau gifted one of those soapstone sculptures to former U.S. President Barack Obama during his official visit to the White House.
  • Commissioned in 2011 to create an Aboriginal Ceremonial white stone altar for the Edmonton Remand Centre. Leo sculpted the altar inside the facility as well.
  • Created one of the five sculptures commissioned for the Capital Boulevard Legacy Public Art Project — Canada 150, installed on Capital Boulevard.

Leo Arcand’s stunning sculpture, Nature’s Harmony, has a new home on Capital Boulevard in front of NorQuest College. #yeg #yegdt #indigenous #indigenousart— NorQuest College (@NorQuest) November 16, 2017

NorQuest College
Leo Arcand stands at the location of his next piece. Courtesy of Leo Arcand.

“[Teaching stone carving] has definitely brought me closer to my community. It’s made me open my eyes to possibilities now that wouldn’t seem like they’re in reach but now are, and that’s through teaching.”

Leo Arcand, Woodlands Cree Sculptor



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