ATEP Painting

Jerry Whitehead painting

Jerry Whitehead is a Cree artist from the Peter Chapman Band, part of the James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. As a child, he was an avid drawer and created works using any materials he could find. In his teens, he added painting to his repertoire. He has mentioned his family’s creativity as sources of inspiration, particularly his grandmother’s work with hides and his mother with beadwork and braided rugs.

In addition to his natural gifts, he sought out technical training. In 1983, he obtained his first degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Indian Art from the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College. In 1987, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

In his work, he utilizes vivid colours, movement, and a recurring theme of powwow dancers. Jerry says, “Powwow dancers have been an ongoing theme in my work since I began painting. Seeing the dancers as a child had a lasting impression. The subject matter has been ideal for expressing a part of my culture as well as accommodating changes in my work. Many of the issues that accompany the dancers are about life in general or what affects me at the time.”

Jerry currently lives in Vancouver, BC, but his artwork can be found all over western Canada, including various locations on the University of Alberta campus. We are grateful to Jerry for his contributions and consider him one of ATEP’s heroes. 

If you visit us on the 7th floor of Education South at the University of Alberta, you’ll notice this painting by Jerry Whitehead as soon as you step off the elevators. While serving as the Faculty of Education’s artist in residence in 2010, he painted this mural for the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program. Whitehead created it while nestled in a sun-lit corner of the main corridor in the Faculty of Education’s south building, stopping to share stories and answer questions from curious passersby.

Jerry is known to occasionally hide words and phrases within his paintings, and the ATEP piece is no exception. If you look closely, you will see the letters of ATEP embedded into the clothing of the four central figures of the painting. 

To learn more about Jerry, you can visit his website at