Dozay Christmas’s art currently on display is inspired by First Nation communities throughout the Maritimes, and the painting to her right relates to Potlotek First Nation. Visitors to The Friends United International Convention Centre are welcome to stroll through the gallery and have a look at Christmas’ work, along with the work of other First Nations artists.

CLEVELAND: The Friends United International Convention Centre threw a party last Wednesday that, in a manner of speaking, will last all year long.

“I’ve been painting all my life, mostly,” said Dozay Christmas, the special guest at last week’s big event.

An exhibition of Christmas’ art officially went on display last week at the Cleveland-based gallery and convention centre. The paintings will remain on view for the public for a full year before the canvasses are packed up and moved out west, for displays in Western Canada.

Those who view the paintings out west will be in for a real treat, as the art will offer them a glimpse of First Nations’ culture on the east coast. Christmas’ paintings relate to communities and landmarks throughout the Maritime provinces.

In specific, the paintings tell stories of Kluskap (Glooscap) and creation stories around Atlantic Canada.

“I went to NASCAD in the 80s, and art became my life,” the artist said.

The Friends United International Convention Centre was a busy spot on October 16, during the official opening of Dozay Christmas’ exhibition. She and several other First Nations artists were on hand to talk art with visitors. Pictured are (from the left): artists Brent Hardisty, Loretta Gould, Christmas, Gordon Fiddler, and founder of the Cleveland-based gallery, Rolf Bouman.

She took The Reporter on a guided tour of her paintings during the opening. She also mingled with guests and art lovers during the afternoon event. She knows the curator of Friends United, Rolf Bouman, through a mutual friend who teaches at Cape Breton University.

Indeed, Christmas has an exhibit going on at the school right now. She’s illustrated children’s books over the years, and her work from those pages is on display at the Sydney-based school.

“I asked Rolf if I could have an exhibition here before I send the paintings out west,” she said. “I also did a residency here, and now I’m back on my mural. I’m trying to finish one in Membertou at the sports and wellness centre.

“I’m doing one in the main area, and it’s taken me three years.”

Pictured are (from the left): Dan Christmas, Friends United Centre founder Rolf Bouman and We’koqma’q artist Loretta Gould during a celebration on October 16 in Cleveland.

Christmas wasn’t the only artist practicing her art in Cleveland. During the Wednesday exhibition, Waycobah artist Loretta Gould was working on a painting at the centre. With her, Northern Ontario artists Brent Hardisty and Gordon Fiddler were also creating art.

“Everyone works together constructively,” said Bouman. “They teach each other, and they tell the stories of the Míkmaw and other tribes here together. It’s really Friends United. They tell amazing stories, and I feel humbled to hear them.”

Indigenous artist Dozay Christmas and her husband Dan stand next to one of her creations, along with Friends United International Convention Centre founder Rolf Bouman. An exhibition of Dozay’s art was being presented, and the display will remain in place for a year at the Cleveland art gallery before the paintings are moved to galleries in Western Canada.