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Creating Jets Indigenous-inspired logo a profound experience for artist

Leticia Spence drew from wide range of cultures in centerpiece of WASAC night

by Cristina Ledra @cledra / NHL.com Staff Writer

Coming from a family of passionate hockey fans, Leticia Spence and her loved ones shared some happy tears when they saw her Winnipeg Jets logo reimagined with symbols of Canadian Indigenous culture on a t-shirt last season.

They shed some more when they saw the 29-year-old graphic designer's artistry on an official Jets jersey that the team wore during warmups for its second WASAC night on Friday.

"Even on the t-shirts, I was like, 'Whoa,'" Spence told NHL.com. "It was a really big deal and it still is a big deal to me because it's still very new to me to see my own work on that kind of scale.

"Even more so with the jerseys. The first time I saw them, I was like, 'Holy smokes! That is wild.' And it's so beautiful and I'm happy that the creative team at True North was able to take the branding that I created and express it in a multitude of ways."

Tweet from @JetsGearStore: We celebrate indigenous culture at tonight���s @NHLJets game for WASAC Night with special apparel! Proceeds benefit @wasacnews, available now at all Jets Gear locations and online at https://t.co/rCAdf9my7p pic.twitter.com/wafR1c1dIY

The first time the Jets teamed up with WASAC (Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre) for a special night, they raised more than $15,000 to benefit the non-profit organization that helps guide children and youth through leadership and mentorship.

Spence had been working as a graphic designer for WASAC while she was a student at Red River College in Winnipeg, and was enlisted to lead the logo design project for the 2019 Jets WASAC night and Manitoba Moose Follow Your Dreams night.

Her goal was to incorporate symbols from Cree, Dene, Dakota, Ojibwe, and Oji-cree culture into the two logos, but first Spence had to learn more about the groups through research to make sure she was representing them accurately and respectfully.

"I found it fascinating that although we have our own distinct ways of expressing and visually communicating our cultures, still at the very core of it, it still has that same sort of meaning," she said. "Like we're connected in that way."

Tweet from @NHLJets: We collaborated with Red River College graphic design student Leticia Spence, from Pimicikamak First Nation, to develop a special version of both the #NHLJets and @ManitobaMoose logos that incorporate the artwork and symbolism of several Indigenous cultures! pic.twitter.com/7zGOCjrt0y

The Jets logo's inspiration is the Cree medicine wheel,which has four quadrants; black, yellow, white and red. They represent, among other ideas and principles, north, south, east, and west, as well as child, youth, adult, and elder. Instead of black, Spence used Jets blue to pair the symbols because of the love and passion that the people of Winnipeg have for the Jets.

She alternated the colors to, "show the continuity and dynamism of life and how our culture is reflective of that. It's continuing to grow while also maintaining history," she said.

The triangles in the circle symbolize home and the rectangles symbolize earth.

"I felt that best represented First Nations people as our livelihood, our culture and our history is very imbued in this land, in Manitoba and in Canada at large," Spence said.

The Moose logo drew inspiration from the Woodlands style of art, which is based on Midewiwin ancient scrolls pertaining to medicine, emphasizes outlines and silhouettes, and uses vibrant color.

Tweet from @ManitobaMoose: It's all in the details with these jerseys, and we're blown away with how they turned out. #FollowYourDreams #GoMooseGo pic.twitter.com/ppEZQHpGyE

The lines on the moose's neck is the symbol for power, and the arrowheads behind the moose are representative of protection and strength, and are regarded as icons of courage. The spiral is the symbol for heart.

The jerseys feature Cree florals, which Spence saw a lot of in her aunties' beadwork growing up.

Because of time constraints, the Jets and Moose could only get the logos on t-shirts last year, but they got to work right away on making jerseys with them for this season.

"The logos were so well received that the demand, even before the games were played last year, people were already asking, 'Is it going to be on a jersey? Can we get that? What would that look like?'" said Josh Dudych, director of creative services for True North Sports and Entertainment. "It was sort of a no-brainer. We were like, 'Of course we're going to explore what that looks like and figure out a way to make that happen for both teams.'"

On the Jets jerseys, the numbers appear as a yellow, red, orange and white gradient from afar, but incorporate the morning star symbol upon closer look.

The Jets warmup jerseys, and Moose game jerseys from their game on Saturday are available for auction. Merchandise is also for sale in the team store, and proceeds will benefit WASAC.

In addition to the jerseys, the Jets hosted a pregame ceremony with First Nations drummers, a Metis band, Inuit throat singers, and a school choir that performed "O Canada" in Ojibwe, a first at a Canadian sporting event.

Video: TBL@WPG: Jets honor indigenous youth on WASAC Night

"There's a concerted effort in the WASAC nights to expose people that may not be familiar with indigenous culture, that this is something that they can share in, and at the same time, it's a way to reach out to the Indigenous community to make them feel like they have a place within our branding," Dudych said.

For Spence, who recently graduated and hopes to help increase representation of Indigenous artists, having her first professional work appear on such a grand scale was a thrill she is truly thankful for.

"I'm so grateful," she said. "There's been a really positive reception and it just motivates me to be better as an indigenous graphic designer and just an artist in general."

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