The mission of Ed-Digenous Traditions is to educate our future while preserving traditions. My goal is to share traditional teachings by establishing community partnerships to empower Indigenous heritage and practices. Traditional art forms are a way to work toward strengths and to create cultural connections with educational institutions, the public and communities.
Ed-Digenous Traditions creates Indigenous Learning Kits for schools, communities, workshops, conferences, and post-secondary institutions. The kits actively demonstrate and support the educational concepts being introduced.
My name is John Ferris. I’m a member of Constance Lake First Nation, and I have been artistically active most of my life. I began developing my portfolio in 1985 and in the summer of 1986, I received a letter of acceptance to the Ontario College of Art and Design. Afterwards, I continued to study Graphic Design at George Brown College for two years. While studying in Toronto, I was introduced to Michael John Angel, a Master Portrait painter who taught in the Classical Methods of Drawing and Painting of the Old Masters. Three and ½ years of studio study elevated my professional understanding of Art History, Anatomy, Theory, Painting and Drawing Techniques to a whole new level.
After six and a half years in Toronto, I moved back up North to Longlac and continued my career as an artist. In 1994, I developed a course to teach First Nations artists and opened a studio in Thunder Bay to deliver this course for six months. I have been a teacher elementary school in the Thunder Bay and Cochrane Regions over the years. In 2001, I established the Keewaydenong Art Camp for Aboriginal youth. Young participants from the remote Indigenous communities were invited to come to Thunder Bay to participate in a two-week art camp where elders would teach them how to create traditional art forms in their language. I also established the “Aboriginal Artworks Group of Northern Ontario” (AAGNO) in 2001 and am the Founder of our semi-annual Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Gift Shows in Thunder Bay. We have over 250 artists of all ages from all over Ontario who attend these shows.
In 1998 I was approached by Confederation College to design an Indigenous art course creating the “Contemporary Aboriginal Artistic Design” curriculum. I went on to teach this course for the next 12 years. In 2010 I began teaching Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth at Thunder Bay’s correctional centres, tutoring learners in fine arts and traditional Indigenous art forms including drum making, soapstone carving, wood carving, woodlands art, portrait drawing and painting. These traditional workshops provide an abundance of knowledge about Indigenous culture and heritage, making them essential for everyone that engages in these art forms.
I have had a lot of experience in the field of fine arts, Indigenous traditional art forms working with young and old and continue to do so. My goal is to establish an Aboriginal Arts Organization that will utilize AAGNO and by practicing our traditional art forms, incorporate them into educational systems. I have recently started the business, Ed-Digenous Traditions, where I create and develop Indigenous Learning Kits for schools, communities, workshops, conferences and post-secondary. These align with the new curriculum guidelines being introduced by Ontario and other provincial governments across Canada and will be connecting with international education institutions in the future.