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National Gallery of Canada seeks public participation in creating artwork

The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) invites the public to help create a work of art by donating a wool or natural fibre blanket with a story to tell to artist Marie Watt. The blankets will be part of the artist’s ambitious installation Blanket Stories: Seven Generations, Adawe, and Hearth, which will be shown at the NGC next year, as part of the summer exhibition Sakahàn: First Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art.

National Gallery of Canada

The blankets will be assembled into seven columns, reflecting the Indigenous teachings of seven generations. These teachings call upon the community, leaders, and individuals to consider how their actions and decisions will affect not just the next generation, but also seven generations forward. The installation will be the most ambitious community collaboration by the artist and her tallest sculpture to date.

Blankets: bearing witness to important life events
Marie Watt’s work is centred around the community, particularly in her use of wool blankets. This installation will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word Ottawa comes from the Algonquian word adawe, which means “to trade.” Watt is interested in the way blankets and humble pieces of cloth are often markers for memories or stories. Blankets also have a very personal meaning for her: in the Seneca community, as in other Indigenous groups, blankets are given to honour those who are witnesses to important life events.

It is with this perspective that Marie Watt is asking people to share the stories of their blankets. Donors are invited to write their stories on tags, which will be attached to the blankets. The latter will then be folded and stacked, to create a skyward-reaching column and welcoming pole, greeting those who enter the NGC’s Rotunda next summer.

How to participate
Blankets can be brought to the Gallery’s cloakroom at the Main Entrance. Donors will be asked to fill out a tag telling their story. Blankets may also be mailed to Blanket Stories Project, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 9N4. Please note that blankets will not be returned. For more information, visit