By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,


Holly Aubichon, a Métis artist who lives in Regina, entered the 19th annual BMO 1st Art! Competition earlier this year. Her entry, titled Modern Medicine, ended up being chosen as the Saskatchewan regional winner in the national contest.

Art school students from more than 100 post-secondary schools across Canada are eligible to participate in the contest.

School officials nominate up to three students from their own schools to enter the competition.

By being one of this year’s regional winners, Aubichon received $7,500.

A record 336 submissions were received by contest organizers.

Anna Kueklen, who has graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design University, was selected as the national winner and was awarded $15,000.

Kueklen submitted a film called Like Father Like Son, which provided a look at daily activities on her small Alberta farm.

Students were allowed to enter works, including time-based media such as video, film, audio and computer technologies. Also accepted were drawings, printmaking, photography, paintings, sculpture, glass, ceramics, textiles, mixed media and installation works.

Like all of the other winners, Aubichon’s work will be displayed from Nov. 16 through Dec. 8 in a virtual exhibition available for viewing at

A winner was chosen from each province and territory.

Aubichon graduated from the University of Regina this past June with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a minor in Indigenous arts history.

Aubichon created Modern Medicine, an oil painting, as a means for healing and to document and preserve her Métis and Cree heritage.

“I definitely felt this piece had so much significance,” she said.

Modern Medicine is purposely dimly lit to signify emotional stress, spiritual presence, memory recall, ceremony, tenderness, as well as the burden of intergenerational trauma.

Aubichon began working on her piece in January.

“It took me probably a month-and-a-half to finish it,” Aubichon said.

Though pleased with the outcome of her work, Aubichon said hearing positive critiques from others about Modern Medicine was a boost.

Modern Medicine was created on a 4-foot by 5-foot canvas. Aubichon said that was the largest piece of canvas she’s ever worked with, adding most of her previous pieces were 2-foot by 3-foot dimensions.

Cameron Fowler, the chief strategy and operations officer for the BMO Financial Group, said BMO has a long-standing commitment to support community arts, culture and programs, including the arts competition.

“We are thrilled to recognize this year’s impressive group of winners as some of the best and brightest emerging artists across Canada,” Fowler said. “Having their (art) selected by this respected jury of artists, curators and arts educators is an immense achievement that we hope will bring a future of success in the arts to these talented winners.”

Winners were chosen by a three-person selection committee consisting of Anne-Mare St-Jean Aubre, Melanie Colosimo and Francisco-Fernando Granados.

St-Jean Aubre has served as the curator of contemporary art at Musée d’art de Joliette in Quebec since 2017.

Colosimo is the director/curator of Anna Leonowens Gallery Systems located at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University.

And Granados is a Toronto-based artist and educator, who has taught at both the University of Toronto Scarborough campus and Ontario College of Art & Design University in Toronto.

Dawn Cain, the curator of the BMO Art Collection, is pleased all of the winners will have their works displayed.

“With schools and art studios being shut down for the past year, this year’s winners had to overcome unprecedented circumstances to excel at their craft,” Cain said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to share their exceptional works with fellow art lovers from coast to coast to coast in a virtual exhibition format.”

After graduating Aubichon began work in July as the administrative director of the Sakewewak Artists’ Collective, which has been in existence since 1996.

Aubichon knows where she will be spending her $7,500 in contest prize money.

She is currently doing an internship in traditional Indigenous tattooing. She said she’ll be buying a tattoo kit.

“I also want to buy some really nice paint and paint brushes,” she said, adding she also plans to purchase some more canvases.

(PHOTO: Holly Aubichon’s winning entry for the 19th annual BMO 1st Art! Competition, Modern Medicine.  Risa Horowitz)