Indigenous artists' trip to Japan leaves them 'short-changed'
Published Friday, September 6, 2019 8:03PM CST
A group of Indigenous artists say they’ve been left short-changed after being promised a trip to Japan which they were told would help promote their work abroad.
They’ve been left with more than the pain of jet lag. Faith Starlight was part of that contingent. She says, she paid the organizer a $2,200 deposit for hotels and delegation fees.
"It looked like a great opportunity to showcase my work and represent not only my brand, but my community's," Starlight told CTV News.
The Calgary based artist says, that didn’t happen.
"It was my first time in Japan, huge language barrier, (didn't) know where we are going. Multiple train lines, and then toting all of our inventory to get to a mall on the other side of Tokyo."
That mall was the only opportunity to sell her product Starlight says, and they didn’t sell much despite being told to bring lots of inventory in their luggage.
She says, they were promised shuttle service to the locations, but instead they had to take the train and navigate the city on their own with little help from the organizer. That organizer is Saskatoon-based Heather Abbey of Indig Inc.
Creative Saskatchewan a provincial grant fund, initially provided about $40,000 taxpayer dollars for the trip billed as a way to promote Indigenous art abroad. There were 30 people signed up to go originally, but only two of those artists were from Saskatchewan. A large portion was from Alberta and one from the U.S. The project received approval for over $60,000.
"As good stewards of public dollars that we invest in creative business and creative entrepreneurs it’s especially important for us to be aware if there are any situations," Greg Magirescu, CEO of Creative Saskatchewan said.
Heather Abbey has been asked to submit an interim report to Creative Saskatchewan which will be reviewed.
CTV did try to reach out to Abbey, the organizer of the trip, but the number was out of service and her website and social media platforms had messages saying they were offline