Hope and Light: The Art of Kevin Pee-Ace

From his residential school upbringing to the early days of reconciliation, artwork and family continue to be sources of strength for this renowned Cree artist.

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Cree artist Kevin Pee-Ace
Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Pee-Ace

Kevin Pee-ace: The Origins of an Artist

Born in 1972 in Kelvington, Saskatchewan, I am a member of the Yellow Quill First Nations (Saulteaux) and the Peter Chapman First Nations (Cree). I am also a survivor of the Indian residential school system, having attended both Gordon’s near Punnichy, Saskatchewan, and St. Michael’s in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, for six years of my early childhood. In 1985 my late mother Ann Whitehead moved our family out to British Columbia, eventually settling in Mission. In 1991, I graduated from Mission Secondary School, and soon after I enrolled at what was then called the University College of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford Campus, in the Studio Fine Arts Diploma Program, which I successfully completed in 1993. I moved to Vancouver later that year and continued my education at Capilano College in North Vancouver, where I followed courses in fine arts history, anthropology, archaeology and Native studies. After its completion in 1995, I began my professional career in art under the guidance of my uncle, Jerry Whitehead. In the summer of that year, I decided to return to my roots in Saskatchewan and continue pursuing my goals of becoming an artist.

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Painting by Kevin Pee-Ace
Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Pee-Ace

The Importance of Family

Fast-forward more than 20 years later, and I have discovered many things in my life that art has brought me, the most important of which are the love of a great wife, Vicki Head, three beautiful children—Dawn, Eve and Raymond—and two grandchildren, Daniel and Raven. The importance of family is the central core of my paintings, many of which are tributes to the remarkable women in my life, who have made significant contributions to my very existence. They always remind me of the importance of the past we share, and the future of my children. I am proud to represent my people through art. It is a blessing to be given these gifts and, equally, to share them with people all over the world. My wish is that my paintings will inspire our children, give them hope, help them to be positive, and always strive to reach their dreams.

Find out how the Indigenous art of mukluk-making brings cultures together.

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Painting by Kevin Pee-Ace
Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Pee-Ace

A Modern Fusion of Two Worlds

My predominant style depicts traditional floral motifs, reminiscent of beadwork, a homage to my late kokom (grandmother), who created beautiful works on moss bags, moccasins and saddles. This new style is a modern fusion of two worlds—one traditional and one contemporary. The importance of family is prominent throughout the works, the vibrant colours representing the joy of life. Meant to inspire hope, success and happiness, these paintings are a tribute to my late mother who was my guide throughout my life; my late kokom, for her strength in cultural beliefs and traditions; and my children for the inspiration they give me. “Meegwetch (thank you).”

To find out more about Kevin Pee-ace, his artwork and his availability for commissioned work, visit www.kevinpeeace.com.

Next, take a look at the eye-opening artwork of Jim Logan.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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