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Indigenous Art Exhibition - Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre

Updated: Jun 25

A partnership between the London Arts Council and the City of London

The City of London’s Land Acknowledgement provides strong rationale for this project by answering why we must prioritize working with Indigenous communities in fulfilling our mission and informing the ways in which we can make meaningful actions towards reconciliation. 

Reconciliation work starts with acknowledging the land that we live and work on. Land acknowledgements should recognize the original people of this land and emphasize the settlers’ responsibilities to the land, to the original people, and to Indigenous communities through meaningful actions towards Truth & Reconciliation. We have responsibility to acknowledge and respect Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing, in addition to what we continue to learn from this knowledge.

To reflect that, the London Arts Council and the City of London invited Indigenous Artists/Creators/Practitioners of Traditional Arts from Southwestern Ontario to submit original artwork for consideration for a permanent Indigenous Art Exhibition. This exhibition project was implemented based on a decolonized approach that emphasizes ongoing relationship building and honouring Indigenous art and culture.



The Indigenous Art Exhibition Project is part of the City of London’s Public Art and Monument Program, administered by the London Arts Council. The selected works have been professionally curated and installed for exhibition at various spaces within the City of London Community Centres, City-owned facilities, and City-permitted locations.

You can view this exhibtion in-person at the Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre (656 Elizabeth Street) from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., Mon - Sun.

Featured Artists:

Rebecca Doxtator

Beadwork Artist - Otsí:tsi' Designs

Rebecca Doxtator (she/ they) is from the Oneida Nation of the Thames community in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, and the artist behind Otsí:tsi' Designs. Rebecca started beading in 2014 and her work has gone from being a casual hobby to an artistic passion. She creates beautiful and unique beadwork, from earrings to bolo ties, with one of-a-kind designs. Their work is a mix of traditional Ukwehuwé beadwork style with a pop culture twist.

Featured Work: 

  • Pink and Red Jingles

  • Tufted Purple Florals

  • katsi’nkwalahú :tsi’ o’wá shaleshuha’ (orange flowers)

Connect with Rebecca

Sabrina Fontaine

Beadwork & Tattoo Artist - Miskomin Kwe, Berry Picker Tattoos

Sabrina Fontaine is a Queer, Ojibwe beadwork artist, illustrator, tattoo artist, and activist from Garden River Reservation, and currently resides in London, Ontario. Sabrina owns and operates Miskomin Kwe, a small beadwork and art shop, and tattoos under the name Berry Picker Tattoos. Her work focuses on celebrating the natural world, blending traditional practices with modern art styles, and shining a light on generational and systemic injustices faced by many Indigenous peoples.

Featured Work:

  • All of Creation

Connect with Sabrina

Alan French

Visual Artist

Alan French is from Chippewa of the Thames First Nation, born and raised on the first nation for most of his life. Alan has been a community artist all of his life, and many of his artworks are displayed within the community, as well as province-wide.

Featured Work:

  • Love

Connect with Alan email: 

phone:  226.663.3639

Renee Jewel

Stained Glass Artist

Renee Jewell is a member of Oneida Nation of the Thames with maternal roots from Walpole Island. She has been with her partner for 30 years and they have raised 5 children together, and are a big part of their grandchildren's lives. Renee started doing stained glass about 7 years ago as a positive distraction while dealing with a depression and anxiety diagnosis brought on by an automobile accident. Doing stained glass has become a huge part of her life, enabling her to have a healthy outlook on life.

Featured Work: 

  • Every Child Matters

  • Star Burst

  • Thunderbird

Connect with Renee

Steve Maracle

Visual Artist

Steve is a self taught First Nations artist who has sold many artworks in London and the surrounding area. He has participated in the London Arts Council's London Arts Live Program, painting murals on Dundas Place. Steve paints in his own version of the Woodland style, with the intent of making paintings that can teach and inspire.

Featured Work: 

Deshkan Ziibi  

Connect with Steve

phone:  519.851.9175

Chandra Nolan

Multidisciplinary Artist - The Beading Studio

Chandra is a multidisciplinary artist currently residing in London, Ontario. She is Cayuga and Anishnaabe, born in 1998. She is the co-owner of The Beading Studio where her beaded artwork uses natural elements, semi-precious gems, and crystals with gold or silver finishings. She is constantly finding inspiration in nature, natural energies, and melding these with haute couture techniques. Chandra feels a sense of connection to her Indigenous roots when creating traditional crafts, harvesting materials, and doing beadwork. In creating wearable pieces, Chandra hopes to promote meaningful connections to Indigenous culture.

Featured Work: 

  • Moonlight That Dances on the Water (Cardholder)

  • Daanis

Connect with Chandra

Karolyn Petersson

Visual Artist

With knives and color palettes in hand, Karolyn Petersson is a member of the Ojibwe-Potawatomi nations from the Minnesota regions on her maternal side, and settler mix from Gotland, Sweden on her paternal side. As a visual artist, she creates magnetic and textured pieces that mirror how she engages the world around her. As the daughter of visually impaired parents, a surgical scrub nurse and an artist, Karolyn blends together her passion for art with her medical training to increase access to art and bring paintings to the fingertips of visually impaired communities.


Her talent for creative expression was evident at an early age, and her artistic practice was reinvigorated and formalized during the phases of isolation and introspection of the early COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2023, Karolyn celebrated her first solo art show, "Evolution," at Sparrow Brewing and Roasting Co. in Cambridge, Ontario. Currently, Karolyn is participating in the N’we Jinan Art Works mentorship program, and rooting herself firmly in her artistic style. Karolyn believes in the healing power of art and is working towards continuing to bridge relationships through art in her own art therapy practice.

Featured Work: 

  • Buried 2023

  • Rooted 2023

Connect with Karolyn

Mitchell Riley

Leather Artist - Antler River Leather

Mitchell Riley is an indigenous leather craftsman, a Regalia Belt Maker and artist who grew up on Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, also known as Deshkan Ziibiing, Antler River. As a young boy he was raised by his mother, with help from family members like aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas. Among those people are some very artistic and creative people who he was fortunate enough to be able to learn from. Mitchell spent many days helping his grandfather in his workshop learning about dreamcatchers and leatherwork.


He found himself living in London with his Mom, stepdad, and his brother. These years would be the last time he ever heard from his father. Life would lead to a diversion program for young offenders that would change his life. St. Leonard's Society of London offered a safe, inclusive environment to learn about structure and community, self discipline, and reflection without a major punishment. This was a pivotal moment of Mitchell's life.


After completing the program he enrolled at Wheable, an adult alternative continuing education school, and earned his OSSD. After Wheable he enrolled at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario for business accounting, specifically on an education path for CRA credentials. It was during this time of his education he found that his ideals and ethics had begun to clash with what he would define as a colonized world lens. Indigenous individuals often describe this as "a difficulty of walking through both worlds." Those worlds of still being connected to or seeking that connection to his community and culture. At the same time still wanting to thrive, be apart of and belong alongside his friends, his Canadian family, and having those different ideals that clash and don't agree within himself.


During his time at college, Mitchell received an old box of his granddad's belongings after he passed away and amongst them was a piece of artwork he had never seen before. This was an old leather wallet, a hand carved leather wallet with a picture of a beaver on it that looked like the real thing. He began to seek out this art medium of "leather tooling." Throughout college he had started to teach himself through YouTube and books the art of leather tooling and making fine leather goods.


As his artwork progressed, he had begun to start to want to include his culture in his artwork, but didn't know where to begin. So he went back to the beginning and added dreamcatchers, medicine pouches, learned moccasins,  and he started discovering this vast world of leatherwork and indigenous craftsmanship. Mitchell struggled with wanting to complete the college degree, it was costing money through debt, costing happiness through those clashing ideals, and he had fallen in love with discovering what his culture meant to him.


A community member by the name of Angela Fisher Baa would see his art and offer him a job working on Chippewa for the Employment and Training Department as an Art Facilitator. This opportunity would begin to shape his art career. As an Art Facilitator, he and Angela Fisher Baa would work together to bring art and culture to the community. They called it The Guild of Indigenous Arts and offered weekly events and classes that consisted of bringing in art knowledge keepers to our space to teach our community. Their classes were open to all 3 communities of Chippewa, Muncey, and Oneida. This opportunity would be his first time ever teaching.


He led a class on Regalia Belts. He taught himself how to make a classic plains style of Regalia Belt. This style is common for Jingle Dress Dancers within the indigenous pow wow circle. He combined this classic style of Regalia Belt with a style of hand tooling on leather. His style is very much inspired by the asymmetrical design of woodland floral beadwork that also includes woodland Dodem animals which are indigenous clan animals. From there Mitchell started his own leather craft business.


He attended many Pow Wows,  gatherings, and handmade events.  Mitchell continues to attend events, build new products, work on creative ideas, and teach. Mitchell now also provides the teaching for a number of workshops ranging from both indigenous led and traditional focused craftsmanship knowledge, to modern technical skill knowledge. The challenge for Mitchell is to continue to grow his business in a way that can sustain his artisanal passion for the leather arts through learning traditional skills, practicing new creative ideas, and teaching others.

Featured Work: 

  • Forever Berry

  • Medicine Bear Belt

Connect with Mitchell

phone:  519.872.6718

Mikaila Stevens

Beadwork Artist & Graphic Designer - Flourish and Grow

Mikaila Stevens is a beadwork artist and graphic designer currently based in London, Ontario. Through processing and creating, art became a way to move through challenging feelings and change her mindset around loss. Through a lifetime spent with anxiety, and facing numerous personal setbacks, creating art and connecting with others like herself was the basis of her healing journey. Inspired by the life and sudden loss of her brother Jacob, Mikaila made the decision to continue working towards her future in a positive way and soon after graduated from Fanshawe College’s Business Fundamentals program.


In 2019 Mikaila was accepted to Rezonance Printing’s Internship for Indigenous youth focusing on Indigenous culture, screen printing, and providing mentorship with the goal of reconnecting with her Mi’kmaq heritage and expanding her knowledge in printmaking. Mikaila graduated from the program and continued working with Rezonance as the lead youth mentor and program supervisor, working closely with the interns to educate and provide mentorship that was so valuable on her own path. Soon after, Mikaila completed the Leap Junction Summer Incubator through Fanshawe College and launched Flourish and Grow in July 2019, through which she continued to connect with the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community and share her artistic journey learning to bead, and sharing her process and progress through her social media and website.


Today Mikaila uses her background in printmaking, textile design, and beadwork to create vibrant, one of a kind works from hand-dyed, printed apparel, to brightly beaded accessories. Flourish and Grow is Mikaila’s creative outlet but more importantly, her way of connecting to those with stories like her own in a world that often feels overwhelmingly alienating.


From 2022-2023 Mikaila worked on her exhibition “I FEEL: Moving From Hopelessness to Hope '' funded by the Ontario Arts Council and London Arts Council through CAIP. Her exhibition was a combination of beadwork and acrylic painting, inspired by a series of poems written while processing her feelings around heartbreak and grief. The series seamlessly combined her artistic mediums and was a vibrant expression of painful emotions we all experience and are forced to move through in this life. With the collaboration of local artists and musicians Shawn and Derek Durant, the poems were transformed into a spoken word album accompanied by acoustic guitar performed by Shawn and Mikaila during the openings in Toronto at Stackt Market in collaboration with Aaniin Retail, and City Rest in London.


Mikaila continues to use her art practice and business to connect and uplift others in hopes of inspiring the beginning of their own artistic journey and instilling the confidence to flourish in their power. This year Mikaila has partnered with Museum London to offer Cross Culture Beading Workshops through the summer that give participants an opportunity to learn about the rich and diverse culture of beadwork in Indigenous cultures with a hands-on learning experience and chance to create a beaded piece for themselves.

Featured Work:

  • To Know You

  • A Little Bit Longer

  • The Hardest Way

Connect with Mikaila


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