AGGP hosts guest speaker for Black History Month

Elsa Robinson identifies first as an artist and she is proud to emphasize that.

“I wanted to get my art into community,” said Robinson. She started by putting her art on t-shirts and selling them at farmer's markets but has since gone to displaying it across the province.

A multidisciplinary artist Robinson is displaying her work across the province through the Alberta Foundation of the Arts Travelling Exhibition (TREX) program; her work is featured in …bring a folding chair, an exhibit which was on display at St. Catherine Catholic School.

The exhibit will have moved to the Alberta Society for the Artists in Calgary by the time of publication.

The Edmontonian, born in Toronto but raised in Jamaica, ties her experiences, culture and beliefs into her art.

Robinson made a trip from Edmonton to speak about her practice at the Montrose Cultural Centre; earlier in the day, she ran a workshop for students of St. Catherine School where they made collages.

She said students were excited to meet the artist of the works hanging in their school.

The exhibit …bring a folding chair is inspired by Black History Month and recognizes the significant contributions of Black artists in Canada.

It is an accomplishment Robinson is proud to be a part of.

“I was beside myself with joy, and it's really nice to have my work going through Alberta like this it is amazing because people get to see the work, especially because this particular show is all Black artists.”

It's been a long journey for Robinson.

“My art career started with a single step of me just deciding that I have to do this,” she said, noting that was 23 years ago.

“I just got to a point in my life where I realized that I couldn't wait until retirement to do what I really wanted to do with my life.”

Robinson would go on to further her education, gaining an education degree with an art minor; she then would expand her education and her art practice when she studied at the University of Toronto, receiving a bachelor's in Art and Design.

Still, she searched for her voice as an artist.

Robinson would again make her way through academia at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, but here she would find her voice as an artist.

“This particular school encouraged the students to explore and expand,” she said.

“Coming in with a two-dimensional collage, the expectation was that I would leave with something else.”

“I discovered Afrofuturism, Afro surrealism, feminist art (and) black feminism.”

Her pieces began to have meaning and purposefulness.

“A lot of things are done quite deliberately in the work that I produce,” she said.

Behind some of her works is a piece of Osnaburg fabric, the same type of fabric used for slave clothing in Jamaica.

“That's just my way of honouring my people and honouring their journey and their strength.”

She said even if people do not know the intent of material or shapes in her work, they feel it when they view her work.

Robinson was brought to Grande Prairie in partnership with TREX and the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie in honour of Black History Month.

More information on the exhibit …bring a folding chair, can be found at

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News