Robyn Scott’s artwork gracing the cover of NWT’s phone books was a comfort among cancellations this month.

Scott said it was welcome news when Northwestel chose her painting “Ekwò,” which Tlicho for “caribou,” to cover its 2020 to 2021 NWT directory last week. In a month that saw Scott facing eight cancellations of creative projects, it was a silver lining.

It was also unexpected: When Northwestel was collecting pieces, Scott wasn’t even planning on submitting until friends tagged her in the calls for submission over social media.

“I just threw my hat in the ring and couldn’t believe they said yes,” Scott said. ”I was so overwhelmed and very excited for my first time submitting.”

Robyn Scott’s painting, Ekwò, has been selected as the cover image of Northwestel’s 2020-21 phone directory.
Photo Courtesy of Northwestel

Scott painted the piece last July. The work was a departure since she normally paints birds. With the new work, Scott said she was interested in creating something “distinctly Northern.”

“Caribou really spoke to me on that one because it is an essential part of life in the North, especially for Indigenous communities,” she said.

When she paints wildlife pieces like that, Scott has an eye for detail, often working off pictures to accurately capture a subject. But for “Ekwò,” she chose to take some creative liberties.

To create a more hopeful image, she chose to lift the caribou’s nose, and brighten the light surrounding it.

Ekwo Fate was recently sold to the Tlicho government, and features news headlines about declining Caribou numbers.
Photo Courtesy of NWT Arts

The result is a contrast to another caribou painting she sold to the Tlicho government. That work conversely pastes new headlines of declining caribou numbers in the background.

It was meant to evoke the looming threats facing the animals, she said.

However, with the phone directory painting, she aimed for a more hopeful image. For her, it shows “these animals are proud and strong, and that I believe they’re going to continue to survive despite human intervention,” Scott said.

It’s also some positive news for the artist, who faced several cancellations as a result of pandemic restrictions.

Those include an exhibit at Snow Castle, another as the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre’s artist of the month, a residency painting in the lobby at Explorer Hotel, a private art exhibit and reception, the NWT Creative Collective Writer’s workshop series, a poetry performance, the NorthWords festival panels, and some Fleming College art courses.

Despite winning the Northwestel cover contest, Scott will also miss the ceremony typically arranged for the directory’s chosen artists.

Those setbacks were disappointing for Scott, who is just one of several local artists dealing complications stemming from the crisis.

“I sat despondent in that for a while, and thought, ‘okay well, now what do I do?’” she said.

Reconnecting with the local arts community was the answer. Inspired by musicians like Leela Gilday streaming performances online, Scott decided to partner with Kevin Bolstad for an upcoming virtual art gallery tour.

The idea is to hang easels and paintings on trees and walk through the forest with a video camera to simulate the gallery experience, Scott said. To support artists, viewers would be able to find individual pieces and their prices online.

For her, it can be an opportunity to support artists during the pandemic.

“Art is continuing. Even though we’re still inside and we’re supposed to stay home and stay away from each other, there’s still beauty and there’s still creating happening,” she said.

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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