People across Canada and even across the world will this holiday season be able to hold a glimpse of NWT culture in their hands.

The art of Melanie Jewell, a multimedia artist in Fort Smith is being displayed on Purolator’s Holiday Box Collection that features the artwork of 13 emerging Canadian artists. The art will appear on the 46 million packages the company plans to send out this season.

“I was inspired by my home community of Fort Smith,” said Jewell, whose work has included a mural in a waiting area at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

The Fort Smith-inspired art of Melanie Jewell is displayed on Purolator’s post boxes, part of its Holiday Box Collection that features the work of 13 artists from across Canada. photo courtesy of Purolator

“I wanted the box to tell a love story. The background of the box shows the Slave River and a landslide. It has three characters in the foreground. There is a young Dene couple who had a baby and a young man has a gift for the new mom.

“On the other side (of the box) there is an alternate universe with a whooping crane holding its baby and a bison giving a gift. The animals are from Wood Buffalo National Park. It’s an anthropomorphic universe of animals wearing clothes. I was going for something whimsical and not overly Christmasy. A winter scene that has a wholesome feel to it.”

Jewell was contacted in early October by public relations firm Weber Shandwick who worked with Purolator on the project.

She said the deadline was “aggressive” and short but she enjoyed the experience.

“I was doubtful (at first) because the email was so vague and it was out nowhere. But I knew I had to do it because otherwise I would regret it. Once they broke it down I thought it was great and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Melanie Jewell, an artist from Fort Smith hopes that her depiction of a young Dene couple on the Purolator box reminds people of spending time with their families during the holiday season. photo courtesy of Purolator

Purolator has been planning the program for a while and several months ago began searching for potential artists in each province and territory.

The company sought young artists from outside the mainstream whose artwork represents their home in Canada, said Laurie Weston, director of retail with Purolator.

“We scoured social media platforms and arts councils (across Canada) for emerging artists,” Weston said. “For Melanie we went to the NWT Arts Council and asked them about creative artists in the NWT. She was recommended by another artist there as well. We knew right away when we saw her art that she was the one to design our holiday box.

“She really captures her cultural background and the feeling of the NWT. The different motifs, the Indigenous feel. It really resonated with me. She captures the mood perfectly and also the holiday season.”

This is the first time Purolator has put the art of emerging Canadian artists on its boxes for the holiday season. For the project it partnered with art supply chain Michaels, which along with Purolator will sell the 13 different artistic boxes in its outlets. They’ll be available in a few weeks.

Jewell hopes the boxes will stir memories of people spending time with their families since many people won’t be able to hold family gatherings this Christmas due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Just that wholesome feeling that they connect with,” she said.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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