Design and Visual Arts alumna bringing awareness of First Nations realities to a broad audience
December 01, 2016

Close-up head shot of Design and Visual Arts alumna Aylan CouchieJust a year out of college, Design and Visual Arts alumna Aylan Couchie has built an impressive list of career achievements.

A few months after graduating from Georgian, Aylan was chosen from among more than 950 entries worldwide to receive the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from the New Jersey-based International Sculpture Center. She also received the inaugural Native Women in the Arts Barbara Laronde Award, which celebrates the career of one outstanding, emerging Northern Ontario-based Indigenous female artist.

Her work has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers and she has exhibited extensively throughout Ontario, Halifax, the U.S. and internationally, all while a student. Aylan is also set to have her first large-scale commission sit atop a Pratt Homes condominium in Barrie.

Despite the many accolades, Aylan says the most important part of her work is being part of the larger conversation about First Nations realities, including murdered and missing Indigenous women, current actualities facing First Nations communities across Canada, and residential school legacies.

“I think I’m adding one more voice to an already existing dialogue surrounding First Nations realities and histories,” says Aylan. “There’s still a long way to go with respect to reconciliation, but I hope to continue to make work that challenges Canadians to reconsider what they know about First Nations histories and people, to aid in the nation-to-nation dialogue I believe must happen to move things forward.”

Aylan says she is inspired by her grandfather, a residential school survivor whose passed-down teachings greatly influence her work.

“I feel like I’ve honoured my grandfather’s legacy through what he instilled in me, both artistically and culturally,” says Aylan.

She also credits the college with giving her the literal and figurative space to determine which areas of the arts she was most interested in and providing her the foundation to move on to additional studies. Her experiences motivated her to give back to Georgian by sitting on the college’s Art and Design Fundamentals Advisory Committee and informing on the curriculum, which is positively influencing both current and future students.

Aylan received a prestigious 2016 Colleges Ontario Premier’s Awards for her artwork and advocacy. View her bio, CV, blog, sculpture and paintings at aylan.ca.