Jimmy Harper

Jimmy Harper was born in 1966 on the Island Lake Reserve in Manitoba, which is only accessible by air, located 350 miles northeast of Winnipeg. Jimmy says that his Ojibway-Cree heritage, teachings and legends were strongly emphasized in his family upbringing by his elders, more so than in the reserve schooling.

Jimmy experienced what was to be one of his life's defining moments when he first encountered the paintings and work of his late Uncle, renowned aboriginal artist Jackson Beardy (who has been written about elsewhere on this site; see 470 Selkirk Avenue). But even after this experience, it was a slow process but in his teenage years it was enough to keep him out of trouble, and he sold his first piece in 1982.

While living on Marlene Street, he became known as a soft-spoken, but talented artist by the other residents. The teaching staff at nearby Lavallee School saw Harper's Murals on Marlene and they asked him if he could teach native art in the school.

He received an honorarium award from MLA Nancy Allen who had nominated his two Murals (along with the 3 other Marlene Street walls) for The Manitoba Attorney General Safer Community Award. Looking at Harper's walls, it becomes quite apparent that his talents are well suited to his larger scale Mural work.

With most artists, when they are called upon to draw an animal or bird, that artist will invariably use a photo reference to help them get it right on the wall. One important difference between all these artists and Jimmy is that Harper's creations are taken right from his mind. He doesn't look at a picture of a caribou or wolf or rabbit; he doesn't have to, as he has spent much of his life studying the kinetic movements and postures of all these animals.

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