National Music Centre Announces Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder Exhibition, Opening on June 3

The National Music Centre (NMC) is pleased to announce Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder, a new retrospective exhibition by an innovator of digital art, which will make a stop at Studio Bell, from June 3 to August 1. The travelling exhibition is in partnership with NMC and Paquin Entertainment.

NMC will also host a public lecture with Buffy Sainte-Marie on Saturday, June 18 at 8:00 pm. The living legend will discuss her retrospective exhibition and the stories behind her digital artworks. Tickets for the lecture are $40 and on sale now at Tickets for NMC Members are $35. To become an NMC Member, visit

Buffy Sainte-Marie is a world-renowned Oscar-winning composer, musician, visual artist, activist, educator. The Cree singer-songwriter has been an informative pathfinder and advocate for Indigenous rights, a continually evolving artist, and a contributor of positive thinking and resiliency amid difficult issues. She has spent her whole life creating, and her artistry, humanitarian efforts, and Indigenous leadership have made her a unique force in multidisciplinary arts.

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s retrospective exhibition, Pathfinder, presents a rare and unique window into the evolution of one of the early innovators of digital art starting with the purchase of her first Macintosh personal computer in 1984. Within this unassuming cube, Sainte-Marie quickly discovered the power, flexibility, potential, and infinite possibilities presented to her through this sudden democratization of technology. The Macintosh presented a transformational and enlightened way of developing and processing a lifetime’s worth of imagery and memory. The works presented in this exhibition provide a unique insight into her creative process, and represent the most comprehensive survey of her digital paintings to date.

The exhibition will take over the Cloud Lounge on Studio Bell’s fifth floor. Featuring 16 of her digital paintings, this exhibition compiles personal photos, sketches, and items such as her son’s Wolf Child cradle board, her hand-embellished performance jacket, and handmade instruments such as the bird whistle Buffy played on the iconic recording, “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone.”  Her humble 128K Macintosh computer – the very terminal on which many of the images were created – leaves a lasting impression. This mindful selection of articles and artifacts speak directly to this respected icon’s unique perspective of her own multidisciplinary life and culture and the experiences that inspired her to create these dynamic visual pieces.

“Buffy Sainte-Marie is one of Canada’s most revered artists and a three-time Canadian Music Hall of Famer,” said Andrew Mosker, NMC President and CEO. “Her body of work, from music to activism to visual art, is inspiring and truly remarkable. While Buffy’s music and advocacy work are currently featured in NMC’s Speak Up! exhibition, the Pathfinder exhibition will reveal a lesser-known side to the artist through her digital artworks. This is also the first travelling exhibition that NMC has sought out for Calgary, and we look forward to bringing many more to Studio Bell in the future.”

“This exhibition acknowledges Buffy as an innovator at the forefront of the digital era, framing her multidisciplinary creative contribution as a cultural leader, educator, and advocate through the lens of digital visual art,” said Natasha Lowenthal, Curator of Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder. “Whether you are a lifelong fan of Buffy’s music or are discovering her art and activism for the first time, you will leave enriched by her heart and humour and inspired by her art and intellect.”

Sainte-Marie’s approached the digital medium as she has with every facet of her diverse career — with trailblazing ingenuity. Reflect back to 1984—a time when the internet was almost unheard of and home computers were in their infancy— Sainte-Marie was there, building pieces of this collection within the confines of the very first versions of MacPaint on the earliest Macintosh models. The technology was nothing like the digital production resources we have today, and was used primarily as tools for marketing and graphic design rather than for creating fine art with emotional impact. Being void of prefabricated filters or options for multiple layers, the process of creating artful images required dexterity and patience. Rising above the limitations of the software, she injected as much depth of tradition and attention to detail with pixels as one would with intricate beadwork or classic oils. Meticulously blending scanned images of her wet studio paintings and in-progress drawings and sketches with those of real fibers, feathers and beads, Sainte-Marie crafted these digital tapestries with the precision and care of a natural-born storyteller. The visual and intellectual brilliance of this collection is undeniably ahead of its time.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder opens on June 3 and runs until August 1. It is accessible with pay-what-you-can admission. Studio Bell is open with extended spring hours, Thursday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, allowing music fans more opportunities to see this exhibition and several others.