Winnipeg Arts Council

Remembering Vince Fontaine

Much has been written this week about the passing of Winnipeg musician, producer, and mentor Vince Fontaine. The Winnipeg Arts Council joins the community in remembering a person who was instrumental in bringing Indigenous artists to the spotlight. Our thoughts go out to Vince’s family and to all those who were touched by his artistry.

The Winnipeg Arts Council Awards were established in 2007 and Vince was the recipient of the second ever Making a Mark award a year later. We honour his memory with these words from his nomination at the time:

"Vince is one of a small group of groundbreaking Manitoba artists who seamlessly melded First Nations culture, history and politics with popular music that appeals to audiences of all backgrounds…Well before graduating university with a degree in Sociology, Vince observed the huge gaps in knowledge, understanding and empathy towards First Nations issues amongst mainstream Canadians. Vince's urban Winnipeg upbringing coupled with frequent stays with family at the Sagkeeng First Nations community, home of his parents and grandparents, provided a context to see not barriers but opportunities for Native American art, culture and history to be shared with Canadians from all backgrounds.

Vince was and remains an artist first and managed to resist the then popular trend to channel obvious polemics through appropriated "Native" music clichés. Instead, he journeyed back to his roots immersing himself in the teachings and counsel of family and elders and allowed this experience to emerge naturally through his music and lyric writing."

- Andrew Balfour, Composer & Artistic Director, Camerata Nova

"Vince envisioned a powerhouse musical group that would combine modern rock elements with traditional Aboriginal stylings. His intent was to provide exciting entertainment, honour his traditional culture, and create a new form of Aboriginal music that was unique in the world of Canadian popular music. He achieved all that and so much more throughout the ensuing years."

- Sam Baardman, Manitoba Audio Recording Industry Association

Above: Eagle & Hawk perform at a sold-out Centennial Concert Hall to kick off Winnipeg's year as Cultural Capital of Canada, January 2, 2010. Photo by Robert Barrow.

Homepage photo: Vince Fontaine receives the 2008 Making a Mark Award. Photo by Cory Aronec of Studio448.