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Robert Houle

Artist Robert Houle

Enriching the cultural community

September 24, 2013 — 

The University of Manitoba’s School of Art Gallery is the honoured recipient of the 2013 York Wilson Endowment Award presented by the Canada Council for the Arts to acquire the entire suite of artworks, the Sandy Bay Residential School Series, created by prominent senior artist Robert Houle.

Drawing of a man with enlarged hands praying

“uhnúhméahkazooh / pretending to pray” from Sandy Bay Residential School Series

As a child, Robert Houle was taken from his family and placed in the Sandy Bay Indian Residential School. It has taken him almost 50 years to gather the strength to process this trauma.  Set on a course to work through his troubling memories and recollections, over the period of one month, Houle used oil sticks to create 24 powerful images. These haunting and troubling images document his experiences, but more importantly they are a testament to his survival and his extraordinary capacity to overcome this profound sadness.

“The Canada Council is delighted that the 2013 York Wilson Endowment Award will make it possible for all Canadians to view this powerful work by Robert Houle and the story it reveals,” said Robert Sirman, Canada Council Director and CEO. “We congratulate both the University of Manitoba’s School of Art Gallery and Mr. Houle for this exciting development.”

University of Manitoba’s President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. David T. Barnard said, “We appreciate this acknowledgment of the important work of one of our distinguished alumni and of our School of Art Gallery. Given the recent agreement signed with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission entrusting our university with the honour of hosting the National Research Centre on Residential Schools, this poignant series makes make important connections to communities both on and off campus.”

“One year ago, Robert Houle: enuhmo andúhyaun (the road home) was the inaugural solo exhibition of the Gallery,” said Mary Reid, Director/ Curator School of Art Gallery.  “This award provides us with the tremendous privilege to collect such a significant body of work from this important exhibition.”

As artist Robert Houle states, it is appropriate that the drawings “are coming home” to Manitoba.

About Robert Houle

drawing of a house in the distance

the road home from Sandy Bay Residential School Series

Robert Houle is a member of Sandy Bay First Nation, Manitoba and currently lives and works in Toronto.  He is a contemporary Anishnabe Saulteaux artist with international exhibition experience whose curating, writing and teaching has played a significant role in defining Indigenous identity. Drawing from Western art conventions he tackles lingering aspects of colonization and its postcolonial aftermath, and relying on the objectivity of modernity and the subjectivity of postmodernity, he brings Aboriginal history into his work.  He received a BA in Art History from the University of Manitoba, and a BA in Art Education from McGill University, and studied painting and drawing at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria.

Houle has been exhibiting since the early 1970’s.  His exhibition, the multi-media installation Paris/Ojibwa, tour included Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris (2009), the Art Gallery of Peterborough (2011), and the Art Gallery of Windsor (2012) and was most recently included in Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2013). He has also participated in several other important group exhibitions, recently, Sovereign Acts, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, University of Toronto, and My Winnipeg at La Maison Rouge, Paris and Plug In ICA, Winnipeg.

Houle was curator of contemporary aboriginal art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization from 1977 to 1981 and has curated or co-curated ground-breaking exhibitions such as New Work by a New Generation, in connection with the World Assembly of First Nations at the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina in 1982; Land Spirit Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa in 1992, and Multiplicities at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia in 1993-94.  He also taught indigenous art history at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto for fifteen years.

Drawing of a bed

“noodin is my friend” from Sandy Bay Residential School Series

Houle’s considerable influence as an artist, curator, writer, educator and cultural theorist has led to his being awarded the Janet Braide Memorial Award for Excellence in Canadian Art History (1993); the (2001) Toronto Arts Award for the Visual Arts; the Eiteljorg Fellowship (2003); membership in the Royal Canadian Academy; distinguished Alumnus, University of Manitoba (2004) and the Canada Council International Residency Program for the Visual Arts in Paris (2006).

Houle is represented by Galerie Orenda in Paris; Carmel Art Gallery in Ottawa; Galerie Nicolas Robert in Montreal; and Kinsman Robinson Galleries in Toronto.

About the School of Art Gallery

The University of Manitoba’s School of Art Gallery (formerly Gallery One One One) was established in 1965. In February 2012, the School of Art, including the Gallery relocated to the new Art Research Technology (ART) lab. ARTlab is a $30-million project designed by Patkau Architects. The School of Art Gallery, with its highly visible exhibition space occupying the entire first floor of the ARTlab, dramatically enhances the School’s facilities. The expanded exhibition program and substantial collection of art works of the gallery mirrors the role of laboratories and libraries in the larger academic context.

The University of Manitoba collects historical and contemporary art, and with over 4,200 works of art the School of Art Gallery houses the largest art collection within the university. The Gallery collection is composed of two parts: the FitzGerald Study Centre Collection and the Permanent Collection. The former is devoted to former School of Art principal Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald and his contemporaries. The latter features a range of historical and contemporary pieces with a particular strength in work by artists that are linked to the University of Manitoba.

About the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s national arts funder. Its grants to artists and organizations contribute to a vibrant arts scene in Canada. Its awards celebrate creativity by recognizing exceptional Canadians in the arts, humanities and sciences. The Canada Council Art Bank is a national collection of over 17,000 Canadian contemporary artworks – all accessible to the public through rental, loan and outreach programs. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO operates under the general authority of the Canada Council.


For more information contact Heather McAfee, Canada Council for the Arts, at 1-800-263-5588 or 613-566-4414, ext. x 4166 (
Or Sean Moore, Marketing Communications Office, University of Manitoba, 204-474-7963 ( 



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