Recent Visual Arts grad Melanie Jewell has been announced as one of the winners of the 2012 Canadian Aboriginal Writing & Arts Challenge.

Melanie Jewell (left) and the other winners of the Canadian Aboriginal Writing & Arts Challenge in Winnipeg. That’s Métis author Joseph Boyden smiling in the centre.

As reported in the Northern Journal, Jewell was the first-place winner in her age group (19-29), with four runners-up. 

The Canadian Aboriginal Writing & Arts Challenge recognizes gifted Aboriginal writers and artists from across Canada, and offers awards in two age groupings (14-18, 19-29) and two categories (writing and arts, naturally).

“It just happened last week so I am still kind of in shock,” Jewell told Northern Journal correspondent Don Jaque in early July. 
”I am inspired to learn more about my culture. I have more confidence and feel I can grow as an artist.”

Jewell’s winning entry, titled The Bourkes, is a mixed-media (watercolour/drawing) piece depicting a traditional Northern family.

Currently based in Fort Smith in the  Northwest Territories, Jewell—who just graduated with a BFA major in Visual Arts in May this year—was flown to a Winnipeg museum to receive her $2,000 award, presented by Giller Prize-winning Métis author Joseph Boyden. Her winning piece—”The Bourkes”—is a painting of a photograph of a traditional northern family, and Jewell credits longtime Fort Smith photographer John Dougherty for letting her work from his images.

Her painting uses a mix of watercolour and drawing—techniques she honed here at UVic—and future plans include trying her hand at animation and possibly a graphic novel.

“It was a surreal experience that I will always remember and cherish,” Jewell notes on her own blog. “My mom and I flew to Winnipeg to receive my award on Aboriginal Day. I even got to meet my favorite author, Joseph Boyden!” She describes winning the award as “one of the highlights of my life.”

The Canadian Aboriginal Writing & Arts Challenge awards are organized by the national charitable organization Historica-Dominion Institute. Jewell’s winning painting will be displayed at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg.