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Aboriginal Visual Arts (AVA)

The Aboriginal Visual Arts program offered by the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design is unique to both Canada and New Brunswick. It is a two-year program completed over six semesters of study and is designed to provide students with skills in traditional Mi’kmaq, Wolastokuyuik and Passamaquoddy crafts and methods of learning.

In addition to becoming skilled in the traditional methods of learning and craft, students will study the Aboriginal history of the region and will be introduced to contemporary Aboriginal visual arts as well as a wide-ranging overview of the foundations of visual arts.  Visiting Aboriginal artists are a highlight of the program and in working one-on-one with these artists and instructors, students will gain hands-on experience via project-based curriculum with an entrepreneurial focus.

In addition to their Aboriginal studies, students will select two courses from the other studios offered at NBCCD. These studios include: Ceramics, Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Integrated Media, Jewellery/Metal Arts, Photography and Textiles.

Students engage in creative problem solving through project-based research, critical and analytical thinking, and self-reflection. Classes in communications for visual artists, art history, drawing, and 2D/3D design compliment the Aboriginal Visual Arts Program. Assignments create a portfolio that celebrates the power of your imagination.

Students from all Nations and all peoples are welcome to learn and appreciate the culture and craft of the Mi’kmaq, Wolatokuyuik, and Passamaquoddy People and are encouraged to explore their own cultural heritage.

Admission Requirements

  • High School students and/or recent graduates who do not possess any post-secondary education in the visual arts can also apply for the AVA Program. 
  • No portfolio is necessary.
  •  An exception is made for individuals who apply to AVA who have not obtained a High School Diploma:

 • High School Diploma or Adult High School Diploma or GED Diploma of High School Equivalency or

• Mature students without a High School Diploma may submit a portfolio of their work and pursue Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR).

 Click here for more information on how to apply.

You will be working with celebrated instructors in fully equipped studios, Apple computer labs and classrooms. At NBCCD, you will learn first-hand why Fredericton is a Cultural Capital of Canada. The galleries, boutiques, universities and many cafés make the College’s downtown location an inspiring and supportive learning environment and an ideal place to obtain an education in the visual arts.

Click here for more information on this program or to enjoy an on-site tour of our facility.

Areas of Study


  • Ash and birch bark basketry
  • Quillwork and beading
  • Drum and traditional paddle making
  • Wood carving and sculpture
  • Drawing, colour, 2D/3D design principles
  • Aboriginal history
  • Anthropology
  • Communications
  • Digital media



Career Possibilities


Graduates are prepared to establish their own small business, for employment in Aboriginal communities teaching traditional craft, to continue in the other Diploma Programs at NBCCD to compliment their learning or at other leading institutions in Canada and beyond. See our Bachelor of Applied Arts program in conjunction with the University of New Brunswick. 

Targeted Jobs (including NOC codes)

• Painters, Sculptors and Other Visual Artists (5136)
• Artisans and Craftspersons (5244)
• Weavers, Knitters and Other Fabric-Making Occupations (9442)
1National Occupational Classification (NOC)

Articulation Agreements
Graduates receive two full years credit towards a Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA) at the University of New Brunswick. Click here for more information.

Diploma: Aboriginal Visual Arts Course Descriptions


Fall 1


Aboriginal Media: Beads, Quills, Basketry and Drum Making

In this course, students learn the traditional processes of beading, quillwork, birch bark basketry and drum making specific to the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy First Nations Peoples. Through a series of projects they investigate these significant techniques and methodologies to develop important foundational skills. Students examine the concepts of reproduction and reinterpretation and integrate these perspectives into their finished products.


Aboriginal Art History 

In this course students examine the art history of the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy First Nations peoples. Through interactive lectures students analyze the way works of art, craft and design function as aesthetic objects and cultural artifacts. In addition, tutorial sessions, case studies and fieldtrips foster the development of skills related to analysis and interpretation.


Colour Study 

In this course, students apply the precepts of colour theory through the manipulation and application of colour. They identify specific colour relationships, contrasts and harmonies as they become familiar with mixing complex colour. In addition, they investigate how artists and designers use colour and in turn how people respond to colour. Through the production of specific assignments, students use their understanding of the physiology and psychology of colour to build a reference portfolio for future studies.


Drawing from Observation 

In this course, students acquire the ability to draw from observation through the application and exploration of drawing elements, principles and strategies. They produce drawings that use the basic elements including line, shape, space, and value as well as apply principles such as composition and perspective. In addition, they experiment with and apply a variety of materials such as pencil, charcoal and inks. Through progressive assignments, students prepare for continued exploration in drawing for personal enjoyment and development, and /or further studies.



2D Design 

In this course, students acquire a working knowledge of 2D design by generating work that reflects the application of design elements and principles. In addition, they use a variety of materials such as pencil, pen and ink, collage and mixed media in the completion of assigned projects. Students integrate 2D design elements and principles, and their acquired knowledge of the characteristics of various media to engage in visual problem-solving and effective decision making.



Communications and Student Success 
In this course, students acquire the communication skills essential to success in the study of visual arts. Using a critical approach, they respond to articles, imagery and discussion topics, to develop English language conventions including skills related to argumentation, exposition, and persuasion. Through a series of assignments, students generate a collection of written, verbal and visual assignments that reflect effective use of English language, style and form.

Winter 1


Aboriginal Media: Traditional Ash Basketry and Pottery 

In this course, students make traditional ash basketry and pottery with techniques specific to the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy First Nations Peoples. They examine the similarities and commonalities found in aboriginal craft and integrate a variety of perspectives into their finished products. By investigating these techniques and methodologies students further their skills related to reproduction and reinterpretation.



The Land, The Spirit, The Art: Aboriginal Artist at Work

In this course, students examine how the history of the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy Peoples was shaped by their spiritual relationship with the land in which they lived. In addition, they will learn the effects of war and European contact had on the development of the crafts industry for trade as a supplement to their livelihoods. Through a series of written and oral assignments student will gain confidence in communicating their viewpoints on these important issues to Aboriginal peoples.



The Creative Process 

In this course, students integrate an analytical approach to solving visual problems with the production of projects in various media. Specifically, by evaluating creative concepts that encompass research, visual and critical problem solving, critiques and self-reflection, they develop and refine their approach to critical analysis. To facilitate successful learning, students engage in class presentations, selected projects and editing of personal work for a portfolio.



Drawing from Observation: Form and Expression 

In this course, students build upon their introductory drawing skills by increasing accuracy (technical skill), refining personal style and using drawing as a means of creative visual expression. By focusing on strategies aimed at the need for enquiry, students create interpretive and expressive responses to the visual. Students use a variety of approaches that address complex subject matter, in particular the human figure, using wet and dry drawing materials. Through progressive assignments, students prepare for continued exploration in drawing for personal enjoyment and development, and /or further studies.



3D Design

In this course, students acquire a working knowledge of 3D design by generating work that reflects the application of 3D design elements and principles. In addition, they use a variety of materials such as pencil, pen and ink, collage and mixed media in the completion of assigned projects. Students use the elements and principles of 3D design and their acquired knowledge of the characteristics of various media to engage in visual problem-solving and effective decision making.



Media Explorations II

In this course, students gain insight into the College’s diverse studio offerings which include: Ceramics, Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Integrated Media, Jewellery/Metal Arts, Photography and Textiles. In Media Explorations II, students explore an additional two studios of the six studios they will experience over the academic year. This course is designed to familiarize students with a broad range of visual media and studio environments and assist them in determining their area of specialization for further and more comprehensive studies.

Spring 1


Aboriginal Media: Major

In this course students establish a primarily studio focus, or a blend, in the following traditional media areas: ash basketry, beading, birch bark basketry, clay and quillwork. Utilizing the traditional teachings from the first year of the program students explore in-depth experimental approaches in hands-on assignments. This course provides ample time to foster individual growth and creative development.


Archaeology: Prehistoric Craft and Culture in the Northeast 

In this course, students gain an overview of archaeological research in North American Northeast (Maine and the Maritimes) through practical archaeological exercises, class discussions, applied research projects and field trips. They develop archaeological skills used to understand the past such as illustration, photography and the re-creation of artifacts. Students discover what can be interpreted about the behaviour of people from archaeological sites and artifacts. This course is designed for students with little or no background in archaeology or prehistoric Native culture.



Aboriginal Iconography: Mixed Media 

In this course, students research the ancient Aboriginal language of the Atlantic Region and recreate visual representations using contemporary mixed media. They will take an in-depth look at the images and symbols of the century old petroglyphs and pictographs in our area. Through interactive lectures students will experience the legends and myths of Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy peoples that are evidenced by the rock carvings and paintings they left behind.

Fall 2


Aboriginal Studio: Beads, Quills, Basketry and Drum Making

In this course, students utilize traditional methods and techniques to create traditional beading, quillwork, birch bark basketry and drum making by learning through accomplished Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Artisans of the Atlantic Region. Students participate in 2 seven-week sessions that feature hands-on demonstrations and lectures. Through the development of their projects students will be challenged and encouraged to push their skills to new heights by producing arts and crafts representative of First Nations in Atlantic Canada.

Exploring Canadian Art

In this course students are exposed to a wide spectrum of Canadian artists and encouraged to explore their cultural differences and approach to art. Students gain valuable information on what is appropriate and accepted in cultural communities and society in general. Internationally known artists and Canada’s many cultures provide interesting and unique profiles for study.


Traditional Oral Story Telling 

In this course students learn to analyze and recount ancient Aboriginal myths, legends and history that have been past down from generation to generation. Traditional oral story telling continues to be the most important means of communication among First Nations People. Through a series of assignments students will research and gather stories from their communities and express these important legends and myths through oral, visual and written form.


Aboriginal Entrepreneurial Networking

In this course, students learn the social and business networking skills required to become an entrepreneur in today’s society. They interact with Aboriginal business professionals and alternative funding agencies to understand the dedication, commitment and creativity needed to succeed. Through a series of projects students will develop a personal business concept for future self-employment. In addition, they are introduced to business concepts such as; personal cash flow, creating a budget, business financing and resources, and most importantly, utilizing the Aboriginal business community for creative problem solving.


Students select one of:


3D Design Shaping Space

In this course, students combine a wide range of materials to produce projects that explore both spatial relationships and the broader world of “design.” By engaging in lectures and discussions that examine the theories of historic and contemporary 3D design, they develop a design aesthetic which is accompanied by research and documentation. Combining various aspects of “the making of objects,” students are encouraged to use mixed media, and materials from their own disciplines, emphasizing peer presentations and critical visual analysis.


Or


3D Digital Design: Shaping Space

In this course, students produce projects that explore both spatial relationships and the broader world of “design” through using computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing applications. By engaging in lectures and discussions that examine the theories of computer based 3D design, they will learn the tools and concepts, as well as develop a design aesthetic. Students will create a variety of objects, designed for use in their own disciplines, emphasizing peer presentations and critical visual analysis.


Communications for Visual Artists

In this course, students tap into the world of social media, in the form of blogging, to initiate their critical opinions and professional communications. They create an online archive of professional documents including digital images of their work, biological information and artist statements. Students write responses to topics pertinent their practice communicating their ideas about visual art. In addition, they learn the steps to apply for a relevant scholarship.


Winter 2



Aboriginal Studio: Traditional Ash Basketry and Pottery

In this course, students will refine their abilities in creating ash basketry and pottery using traditional methods and techniques. This will be achieved by working in direct contact with accomplished Maliseet and Mi’kmaq artisans of the Atlantic Region. Students will participate in 2 seven-week sessions that feature hands-on demonstrations, lectures and projects furthering the growth and development of their artistic practice.


Archaeology: Ethics and Practice

In this course, students further their understanding of the prehistoric cultures and technology of the North American Northeast by focusing on ethical issues relating to repatriation, stewardship and accountability. They explore these concepts through a series of exercises involving recreating artifacts and leading seminar classes. Emphasis is placed on the ethical issues that surround working with materials from the ancient past. This survey course is designed for students with basic background in archaeology and prehistoric Native culture.


Aboriginal Carving and Sculpture

In this course students will learn the basic materials, tools and techniques used in the creation of aboriginal sculpture. Through the process of adding and subtracting form, each student will carve individual projects that focus on traditional aboriginal themes. Students will learn how to identify carving materials, maintain tools and work safely and effectively whether working individually or in a group environment.


Entrepreneurship

In this course, students will develop a detailed business/career plan based on research from the ANTR 2900 Aboriginal Entrepreneurial Networking course. Students will interact with local Aboriginal businesses and funding agencies in the development of their personalized plan. Through a series of presentations and exercises, students will learn to confidently present and discuss their business and career ideas to a variety of people.


Myth and Reality: Bringing Aboriginal History to Life

In this course, students research the myths and legends of the Aboriginal Peoples of Atlantic Canada to bring history to life by translating them into sculptures, etchings and design work. Through the study of original documents, written and oral histories, images and artifacts, students reflect on the history, deep spirituality, ancient stories and legends of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy Peoples. In addition, students gain a unique appreciation of how these peoples’ environment was incorporated into their ideologies and the potential impact it can have on their creative process.


In Winter 2, students choose one of the following electives:


Creative Design Exploration

In this course, students focus on their creative skills and innovation abilities to produce original designs that are realized into 2D/3D product prototypes. Using multiple models of problem solving strategies, students explore form, function and a variety of materials, to apply new skill sets to their methodologies. Students overcome visual and conceptual challenges by working in interdisciplinary teams interacting live, via Skype, with the design team at Umbra to produce a submission to the Umbra Design Collaborations Program.


3D Digital Design and Production

In this course, students use sophisticated 3D modeling and texturing techniques building on skills learned in 3D Digital Design: Shaping Space. These skills will be used to prepare and render complex 3D components that could either become intricate printed objects be utilized as elements or models in other courses.


Designing Bodies

In this course, students create artwork using influences from the traditional and contemporary practices of body adornment/modification. With an aesthetic and anthropological perspective, they research specific Aboriginal practices in body art, such as tattooing, piercing, mehndi (henna), branding and scarification. Students gain a new perspective on this ancient activity, incorporating the ideologies into individual projects as well as communicating their ideas in a clear professional manner.


Paper and Book Arts

In this course, students tap the creative potential of the hand bound book through an exploration of book structures, construction and deconstruction methods. Projects introduce different binding techniques as students use unique tools, materials and processes. In addition, students are encouraged to explore the aesthetic qualities of the book through 2D and 3D embellishment techniques including printed material, transfer techniques and hand stitched embellishments.


Painting in Acrylics

In this course, students learn the fundamental principles of painting through creating images in the medium of acrylic paint. Assignments explore both the historical and contemporary approaches of the painting process. Students have the opportunity to develop an independent body of work which is informed by experimentation and critique, and in addition, is related to a personal area of interest.

Spring 2

Aboriginal Studio: Major 

In this course, students focus aboriginal media specific to their area of interest to create a body of work that is a culmination of their creative experiences in the program. With ongoing guidance from the instructor, they discuss direction, research, design, and time management with emphasis on group interaction with their peers. The work that is produced in this course will be at a professional level of technical skill, aesthetic awareness, and personal creativity.


Digital Communications and Marketing

In this course, students develop a working knowledge of digital technologies to develop a comprehensive individual portfolio. This includes learning to use a digital camera, create professional lighting, and be able to manipulate images using relevant software. Using their own images and biographical information, students design and construct a website using the latest software available. In addition, they investigate the value of internet technologies in the context of e-commerce, marketing and promotion in preparation for a career in the visual arts.


 

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