'Surprised, honoured, humbled': Yellowknifer 1st from N.W.T. on Canada Council for the Arts

Yellowknife's own Ben Nind says he's "looking forward to the adventure," of sitting on the board of the Canada Council for the Arts — and, in the process, becoming the first appointee from the Northwest Territories.

The minister of Canadian Heritage announced the new members of the board of directors on April 7. Nind, a performer, playwright and long-time arts champion in the North, says he'll bring a northern voice to the council, which is Canada's public arts funder.

"I was very honoured and incredibly humbled," Nind told CBC of the appointment.

"What I really think I can bring to the table is knowing the communities, is knowing how we operate here in the northern hemisphere and that includes also being very aware of those issues that are in Nunavut, in the Yukon and of course here in the Northwest Territories."

Nind has written and produced numerous plays, has held positions with Yellowknife's Northern Arts and Cultural Centre and has years of experience in arts programming in remote northern communities.

Nind was born in Ontario but raised in Yellowknife and is the first board member from the N.W.T., according to a spokeswoman for the council — though they have had two members from Yukon in the past.

The council's mission is to promote and invest in "artistic excellence" through grants and services for Canadian artists and arts organizations in dance, music, theatre, visual arts and writing.

Big infusion of cash

Nind points out that the council has undergone "incredible changes," including a huge infusion of cash as of late. He says access to the Ottawa-based office has also been an issue for artists in the past, who've complained about a frustrating online application process.

"How do we make those programs more accessible here in the Northwest Territories?" he said.

"How do we reach out to the most isolated of artists and arts community organizations to be able to say, the support is really coast to coast to coast and we're not just playing lip service."

Nind says the council wants to open up opportunities for northern artists.

"The North has been an emerging jurisdiction in the South for a long time, not only for resource extraction and tourism," he said.

"But we're starting to see — as in the Junos just recently — we're starting to see that there is an effect that northern artists are having upon the whole of the cultural sector.

"That for me is really exciting."

Nind will serve a four-year term, effective immediately. He says his first meeting with the council will be in June.