An award-winning entrepreneur was the last thing Louise Thomas thought she’d be just a few short years ago. Following the loss of her late husband, the internationally renowned Aboriginal artist Roy Thomas, to cancer in November of 2004, she found the courage to open the Ahnishnabae Art Gallery as a way to honour is legacy.
Louise converted Roy’s James Street studio into a vibrant gallery that showcases not only Thomas’s Ojibwa Woodland style art, but additional 140 artists, many of whom are Aboriginal and from Northwestern Ontario. In October of 2009, Louise was the recipient of the First Nations Business Award of Excellence at the Northern Ontario Business Awards in Sault St. Marie. The gallery is now a cornerstone of the Thunder Bay arts and culture scene.
The work of Roy Thomas depicts traditional teachings and introduces his interpretation of the Life Spirits which are the Air, Land, Water and Fire. Louise has found great inspiration and encouragement for the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery from her sons, her many close friends, and the artists whose works have become part of the Roy Thomas legacy.
“Even though Roy was already well-known and his works were selling very well, I needed to do something more to honour the man that was my greatest inspiration,” said Louise. “The gallery is a way to celebrate his works and give other artists the opportunity to showcase their talents.”
Originally from Sucker Creek, Alberta, Louise has been called Thunder Bay home since she and husband Roy settled here in the early 80s. Louise is a regular volunteer at Thunder Bay’s Shelter House where a large-scale mural of one of Roy’s most recognizable works, Relatives, now graces the exterior façade. Louise participated in the City of Thunder Bay’s Downtown Murals program to get the work that pays homage to people of all races for their contributions to mankind up for the entire community to enjoy and celebrate.
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