Renowned Artist is Reluctant Advocate

Sheila Orr spent 15 years at First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) as a visual arts student and then went on to become a visual arts instructor. Orr is well-known for creating masterful pieces of artwork, and has over 100 pieces of in prestigious collections across Canada.

“Still today, out of the blue, people are requesting peace’s from me,” says Sheila. “My favorite genre of art is multimedia with a blend of traditional and contemporary. I’ve always used arts, I’m still consulting [artists] and I will never leave it.”

Sheila says loves teaching, but there were times when she worried about the university’s viability.

When student numbers were declining due to lack of funding, Orr says she remembers dedicated recruitment officers traveling across the country to visit high schools and other academic advisors to promote FNUniv. It was a big job.

Years later, the recruitment policies and strong efforts resulted in increased registration numbers.

Sheila contributed greatly to the school not only through her artwork but also by standing up for artists’ and students’ rights.  Over the years, she decided to not get involved with the political aspect of it.

“I don’t want to advocate,” Sheila says. “I just want to do the art because I love too.”

Sheila knows the importance of having passionate faculty and staff at the university.

“When you are 19-20 and you fly province to a province or place you have never been to before, it can be scary, you can get homesick,” says Sheila. “Instructors are really were there to help you and would go as far to take students from out of town, to their homes to make everyone feel welcome.”

Her most memorable times at FNUniv were the graduations.

“As long as I was in Regina I went to every graduation,” Sheila says. “It was fun, it was social, and everybody got together and was happy. We still do that to this day, and it’s good, like any reward”

To see some of Sheila’s powerful works check out the ArtSask website.


by Peter McDougall