Corrina Merasty is Helping Indigenous Artists in NB while Developing her own Skills

Corrinna Merasty Gallant

Originally from Mathias Colomb Cree First Nation, Corrina Merasty moved to New Brunswick alongside her mother when she was just ten years old.

From a young age, Corrina had always known that she wanted to be an artist, however, she says she was fooled into thinking that all artists are starving. Despite it being her passion, she did not pursue an education in the fine arts. After graduating high school, she enrolled in BKM Research and Development and received her diploma in Multimedia Communications. “This is where I learned a lot of the knowledge I have now about graphic design like video animation and graphic design,” says Corrina.

Following graduation, she worked in the print industry for over ten years. After the industry flatlined with the rise of social media, Corrina had no choice but to pursue something new. She took the Workplace Essential Skills (WES) Program offered by the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) and after completing the program she joined JEDI’s Mobile App Development (MAD) course.

Once she completed the MAD program, Corrina was hired on by JEDI to work as a digital literacy instructor. Within this position, she had the chance to travel to various communities across the province to engage with elders, youth, artists and community members to teach them about digital literacy.

Her love of arts led her to join the artsNB team as the Indigenous Program Coordinator in September of 2016 and she has been there ever since. Within this role, Corrina wears many different hats. “My position is so broad,” say Corrina. “I’m the outreach officer, I work as PR for the Equinox Grant, and I deliver our workshops. I basically do whatever I can to seek out new opportunities for our artists. I’m very passionate about what I do.”

Corrina says JEDI’s MAD program has been very beneficial in her current position, “I don’t think I would be able to do my job now as effectively as I do without it. It really helped me brush up on my skills as well as gain new ones.”

“Working for ArtsNB has really encouraged me as an artist – since starting my position, I’ve started acting and getting more involved with the film industry. I really believe that in order for me to be able to help my artists, I need to be a practicing artist myself,” says Corrina.

In partnership with the NB Co-Op, Corrina recently won a film grant worth $2000 from imagineNATIVE after submitting a proposal to create a short film. “I’ve named the film I’m working on Reclaiming. The project will be focused on celebrating the Indigenous artists and heroes of the province. I want to highlight our elders, language carriers, knowledge keepers, mentors, our artists, and our teachers and all of the amazing work they’re doing. Ultimately, I want it to be put into schools for the youth to see our heroes and how we’re reclaiming our idea of reconciliation.”

In her free time, you can find Corrina supporting her artist’s initiatives or volunteering. This past October, she was a committee member for Sisters in Spirit, which seeks to raise awareness of the alarmingly high rates of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) across Canada. This particular cause is very close to her heart, as 2018 was the 25th anniversary of her aunt’s murder on the highway of tears in British Columbia. In reflecting on her decision to work with this committee, she says it was influenced by trying to find a way to honour her aunt.

When asked what kinds of opportunities are out there for Indigenous artists, Corrina responds with “endless.” However, she believes that the biggest challenge for Indigenous artists is the lack of exposure they receive. She adds, “my biggest dream is for there to be a space dedicated to our Indigenous artists, a place where they can gather and share their work – like a museum or theatre that also had a shop for people to sell their art.”

Corrina believes that having an outlet of this capacity would benefit more than just the Indigenous population in the province. “Tourism is a booming industry, I’m surprised this hasn’t already been created. Tourists travel from all over the world to immerse themselves into our culture but unfortunately there’s currently not a space where they can access our art, history and culture.”

Corrina’s abundance of knowledge, love for Indigenous art and passion for helping her people has proven to be very effective in the work she does today. When asked if she has any advice for aspiring Indigenous artists, she says, “connect with other artists and seek out mentorship – it’s really helpful to have that as a resource. It’s especially important to have that when you’re feeling discouraged or like you’ve hit a wall. You need someone there to encourage you to keep going.”