Ron Ewenin Wapemoose is a Saulteaux-Cree artist who had a rough start to life. He was raised in Alberta by his grandmother. When he was eight years old, she passed away, and he moved to Saskatchewan where he lived in a residential school until he was 16. Haunted by his troubled upbringing, it wasn’t long before Ron was in trouble with the law. For years, he struggled with addiction and continued to run into trouble. As an addict, he was on the methadone program for ten years before being successfully weaned.

Artwork by Ron Ewenin Wapemooose - Transformation

Transformation, Ron Ewenin Wapemoose, 2016

Despite his dark past, Ron believes in healing and moving forward. On his 27-year journey searching for sobriety, he achieved clarity when he got off the methadone program. His health improved, and he found art. It gave him clarity of mind, a focal point and a means for independence.

Home is Where the Art Is

Ron's family has always been artistic on both sides, however, for almost 20 years, Ron sold art calendars alongside his father in Southern Saskatchewan. When his father passed, Ron continued making calendars featuring his work and selling them annually. His art practice began with spontaneously buying art supplies one day and spending all night on a painting. The relief and focus creating artwork provided Ron was new to him.

"I didn’t have any experience, so it took me all night," Ron shared. "I was so excited about what I created that I took it with me to a doctor's appointment I had the next morning and showed it to the doctor. He bought it. That was the first time I felt I had earned something."

Over time, Ron built up an extensive catalogue, pulling inspiration from the world around him. His work as a visual artist includes paintings, sculptures, multi-media, and teaching art classes. In 2022, Ron applied for and received his first grant from SK Arts — something he did not think was possible for an artist with his background. SK Arts' CEO Michael Jones finds Ron's introduction to the agency vital to the agency's goal to make art-funding more accessible and help artists create economically sustainable practices.

"In recent years, SK Arts has paid a lot of attention to our definition of ‘professional artist’ in order to make sure it included artists from different cultures who have trained or practice in different ways." says Jones. "Ron’s story – from someone who didn’t even realize that he could apply to a successful grantee whose work sold out – is inspirational, and I hope it’s only one of many."

Ron Ewenin Wapemoose artwork - The Red Road

The Red Road, Ron Ewenin Wapemoose, 2014

The grant helped Ron to print 100 of his annual calendars showcasing his art — a small fraction of the many pieces he has created over the years. Within days, he sold them all and would print more. Ron hopes to do much more with his artistic practice. He hopes to set up a studio in the future where he can create and teach art.

"I survived because of art. Art saved my life. I will always give it back to art."

Ron Ewenin Wapemoose and his work can be found on Facebook.