There will be no New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts in 2018. Whether there will be one in 2019 or later depends on several factors. Chief among them is the funding to support the conference. As many of you know, we have kept registration fees low in an effort to ensure that cost would not be a barrier to students and those with limited funds. This has been the policy for this unique event for the past sixteen years. While she was alive, New Sun (Joy Maclaren) provided a substantial portion of the necessary annual funding, as did the previous Dean of Arts, John Osborne, and a small number of generous donors. Circumstances inevitably change, and new sources of support are needed if the conference is to continue in the future. Adding to this is the gradual increase in costs related to staging the event.

The annual amount required is around $35,000, and registration fees cover at most 20% of that. If you know of a potential source of support, or know someone else who may assist in identifying a source of future funding, please contact either myself or the Carleton University Department of University Advancement (

Thank you for your past support.
Allan J.

 The 2014 Annual New Sun Conference featured on CBC TV news

Nourishing the Learning Spirit – Allan Ryan’s 12th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts: Trailblazers (PDF)

Looking back on the first fifteen years (PDF)

Donate to the New Sun Conference


Since its beginning in 2002, the New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts has brought together in a public forum individuals from various First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities, as well as from the non-Indigenous community. Presenters have included those with expertise in photography, painting, sculpture, film making, acting, dance, musical performance, curating, arts education, architecture, literature and the culinary arts. Themes such as “healing through the arts” and “transforming traditions” have been explored in a collegial and communal atmosphere that encourages dialogue on important cultural and artistic issues. The conference honours, and seeks to raise public awareness of individuals whose work affirms contemporary Aboriginal experience and contributes to increased cross-cultural understanding. All conference presentations have been videotaped and archived on DVD in Carleton’s MacOdrum Library.

New Sun: Continuing the legacy of her father, Eric Harvie, who was given the honorary name of “Old Sun” in 1962 by the Blackfoot Nation in Alberta, Joy Maclaren was given the name “New Sun” in 1995 by Elders from the Blackfoot, Mohawk and Ojibwa nations at a special naming ceremony at Carleton University to recognize her support of Aboriginal culture and education. Her distinctive blue shawl, with its New Sun design in gold and copper sequins, was presented to her at that time. In 2011 she was given an honorary doctorate by Carleton University and made a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her philanthropy and support of post-secondary education. In 2013 the New Sun Joy Maclaren Adaptive Technology Centre opened in Carleton’s newly renovated MacOdrum Library. At the time of her death in 2014 at the age of 92 Joy had attended seven of the previous nine New Sun Conferences.

Allan J. Ryan was appointed as the New Sun Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture in 2001. The first of its kind in Canada, the Chair is situated in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton. In 2015 he received the inaugural Alumni of Influence Award for Distinguished Educator from the Ontario College of Art and Design University; in 2016, the Distinguished Alumni Award for Career Achievement from Brandon University; and in 2017, the Alumni Association Award for Professional Achievement from the University of Arizona.

Impressions of the New Sun Conference:

“New Sun was a revelation, as always. What a gift you prepare for us every year!” SH

“What an amazing gathering! You’ve created a truly transformative event, and I’m very honoured to have been a participant.” Daniel Heath Justice, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture, University of British Columbia, presenter, 2013  

“I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I was crying the whole way home (words cannot truly describe how beautiful the event was).” A student

“Allan, How can I thank you enough for the fine conferences you organize every year? The talks are always outstanding—and I feel privileged to learn about artists’ lives and the creative process. Beyond that, however, you create a wonderful atmosphere of respect and celebration.” Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and Vice Chancellor, Carleton University (2008–2017)

“I’m so glad to have been part of the conference that you so beautifully organized, and made all the more delightfully enjoyable by great music and wonderful cuisine. … It had an energy worthy of healing.” Robert Houle, presenter, 2016

“… I feel indebted for all that I learned that day to those I thought I had nothing in common with.” A student

“I believe that the human heart is the storage place of our tears. Tears are so very precious, but still, I left a few of mine at Minto Centre, so moving were some of the words I heard. Yes, I left something but I took away much more and I will benefit in mind, heart and soul because of it.” An Indigenous Elder 

New Sun is truly a highlight of the year for everyone—it does so much to grow understanding not only of Indigenous arts, but of the moment of history we are in.” RP

“I just wanted to say THANK YOU for a wondrous and inspiring weekend. It was as you said it would be. So much love and appreciation. … It was a truly heart-filled, soul-expanding day. … I was beyond inspired and so grateful to be a part of this group of artists. … I would return to Carleton University’s New Sun Conference in a heartbeat and would recommend any of my artist friends to attend. It is a gem of a conference. Bravo.” Andrea Menard, presenter and performer, 2016

“The first Saturday in March has long since become a fixed point of reference in my annual calendar. … Each year, Allan Ryan invites wonderful individuals who have achieved something remarkable in some field of the arts, and invariably they have a compelling story to tell. He promises that we shall be entertained, enlightened, challenged, surprised, and above all inspired—and he never fails to deliver! I have never made it through the day without being moved to tears at least once.” John Osborne, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, Carleton University (2005–2015)

“The Conference definitely lived up to its reputation! What an amazing opportunity for holistic learning—our minds, hearts, spirits, and even our bodies were nourished.” A student

“I was hopeful that, this year, I would make it to the afternoon before crying. That hope was dashed during the first presentation of the day. This is not a bad thing—the emotion, personal connections and honesty are what set this gathering apart from any other. As in years past, this gathering allows participants to gain incredible insight into the lives, motivations, successes and intentions of Indigenous artists. I can never be thankful enough to have this event in my life.” An Indigenous student

“To call this annual event a conference is to diminish what it has come to represent to the community of Carleton and the larger community, or communities, within which it has taken root. At once a gathering, celebration, and symposium, the New Sun Conference has unquestionably left its indelible mark on generations of attendees/devotees.” A student

“It is not often these days that I feel a sense of the sacred and the last place I would expect to do so is inside an academic conference. Thankfully the New Sun Conference is not so much an academic conference but a ceremony of togetherness, where people from all walks [of life] join together as a part of the New Sun community. The presenters speak with passion and despite the difference in their respective backgrounds and practices, connections are woven between them like strands in a rope, leaving you feeling as if you were a participant in a wonderful journey rather than someone who has been merely lectured to. This is the most valuable part of the New Sun Conference; it provides us with a glimpse of what academia could be like if we lived in a world where Indigenous teaching was the norm, where the communal is valued over the hierarchical and the heart is given as much heed as the mind.” A student 

A Poetic Reflection

“As I reflected on my experience at the [2014] New Sun Conference, I was feeling inspired by all of the creativity and positivity that the day brought. On my commute home from the conference, I wrote a short poem. I must admit that I have not written any poetry in several years, but I am thrilled that I finally felt the inspiration I needed to write. I used to write quite often but have felt a block for a very long time. This may not be my best work, but it is my first work in a long time, so thank you for providing the space and opportunity for creative inspiration.” KR, MA student

Heavy snow falls
This morning.
A smoke filled room,
The sweet scent
Undresses you.
We sit
In rows apart. Together.
Speaking feather
Spoken word.
Today is blessed
With prayer.
Of inspiration, hope,
Unity, of celebration.
Narratives of the heart.
A feast for kings and queens
And bannock babies.
The drums.
Pulsing through the room
Beating in our bodies.
We dance.
We dance.
Returning, we sit
Together. In rows apart.
Stories heard
Respect shared
Understanding achieved,
We leave as one.
I see anew,
As new fallen snow.

nsc- logo-small

A presentation of the New Sun Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture
with the support of the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, the National Gallery of Canada,
and the generosity of private donors