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DAREarts Attawapiskat 2017 Song: We are the People & Reflection: artist-educator

The following post originally appears in DAREarts blog and has been reposted with DAREarts’ permission. Special thanks to DAREarts for sharing this piece with us and for inviting ArtBridges to participate. For more information on DAREarts, please visit DAREarts.com 

Written by DAREarts artist-educator Glenn Marais.

“DAREarts came to the community of Attawapiskat to hear a story about the original Bear Clan from a knowledge keeper, John Matthews, and to take that story and create a film, visual art, a song and a slideshow of pictures to accompany the music. We worked for three days, two seventy five minute periods, with the high school students on a very condensed schedule, including two evenings and one day after school.  What happened was incredible as the students and teachers came together and worked in the spirit of true partnership to create a stunning and moving cinematic interpretation of the story, with original music created by them and a powerful and moving song that expressed the story of their lives and their love of the land.

The sun sets late in Attawapiskat. At 10:00 O’clock it starts to go down and the night sky comes out, crystal clear constellations arcing across the stratosphere, a sailor’s map, starry legends over a world that sleeps but does not rest.  It rises early, breaking the horizon with a brilliant northern radiance illuminating the dusty streets and weathered roofs of the reserve.  The homes are falling apart after the tyranny of the long, cold winter and the morning sounds of rumbling trucks and nails being driven, blend into the chaotic orchestra of a community waking and beginning to move through the day. Its sounds are just like any other town or community coming to life with the promise of the morning. Only here, it is less about promise than survival. There is a magnificent white Catholic church, tall and majestic by the water with stained glass windows that tell the history of the people and whispers of apologies for past wrongs.  Truths have yet to come and apologies given for Residential schools and that is part of the healing that must happen. It is part of a history long buried, that has been disturbed, opened and left like a forgotten graveyard.

Today’s youth live within the reality of the schools ignoble past.  In the shadow of their parents haunted memories, they struggle to burst free and find the glorious sun that shines so long in the summer and hibernates in the winter. Yesterday, one of the high school students walked and talked with us and her words were true, direct and honest, filled with a piercing, unabated intelligence that captivated and charmed us and as she ascended the wooden stairs that are ubiquitous in this community, slowly opening the door to her home that rested in a state of decay, my heart broke for her and I felt ashamed because my feelings seem powerless to help her.

The name reserve fails to describe the pulsing heart of this community.  What a shallow name for a community of people.  We name things in this world for convenience of categorization and to displace the fact that we have committed wrongs. A dressed up wound still bleeds despite our arrogant nature and human nature is arrogant, particularly when it vaunts it’s self as civilized and tromps over anything that doesn’t fit inside it’s neat, tight lineage. The reserve isn’t a dumping ground for an inconvenient culture.  It is a living breathing community that celebrates and mourns, dances and shuffles, sings and cries like any other.  When you fly into a northern community, the sheer beauty of it is staggering.  Hundreds of pristine lakes and rivers dot the landscape of silty islands, whose fish laden waters and abundant wildlife enrich the land. The land is the mother and the connection runs deep, through memories, and stories of creation, and growth with 44 clans coming from the original clan bear clan.  An ancient system of identification and relationship to the animal world that kept the bloodlines as pure as the waters that surround this island community.  The name Attawapiskat means, “People of the parting of the rocks” and it is an island of many created by the surge of the mighty Attawapiskat river, where the people live in harmony with great respect for nature and the balance of life.

This land is much more than its surface appearance of dirt, dusty roads and broken homes. It has the pulse of the Earth mother and connects the people in ways we can’t begin to imagine. We look at land as possession, here it is the heartbeat of a world that is interdependent, with everything flowing and weaving in and out of a glorious kaleidoscopic tapestry that bedazzles the eyes and stirs the soul. It is the sound of a motorboat powering a launch into the rising sun, the crack of a rifle across a winter plain, bringing home food to a family during the cold winter season, and it is the cry of the pow wow singer whose voice is the sound of the elders echoing through the universe. What great spirit inhabits this land and what wonders await if we can learn to walk in humble shoes and beside our First Nations people.

I have heard people say we should remove them from the reserve and integrate them into society as if the “them” in this conversation are inanimate beings that we can move on some self-righteous chessboard. What about a question? How can we work with you to make things better for you? Where can we begin and sit down with you as brothers and sisters in a circle and come to an understanding and a reckoning of our true history, so that we can move forward together, like the two rows on the Iroquois Wampum belt, in a peaceful union? I don’t dream of such things, I speak of them and when I play my guitar and sing and drum, I sing to the heavens, the Earth, my family and my promise, to never stop until things change.  For now, I walk these dusty roads with my eyes, ears and heart open and look always forward to the sun, moon and stars, just like the words in the song that we wrote together:

“We are the sun, moon and stars, we are the trees
All around us, is everything we need
Everything we need is all around”

We live in an abundant world, made shallow by greed, and in this great land of broken promise and faded dreams are the glittering embers of a glorious past that knew, everything we needed was around us and not to take more than we needed. I heard a story on this trip from a noble young man of great character from Attawapiskat, who told us of being pursued by a wolf, when his skidoo broke down.  He told us how he shot around the wolf to scare him off and kept doing this even as the wolf closed in on him.  A man of lesser character would have killed the wolf.  He did not. This is the character of a man cast in iron and made of blood and bone who taught me so much with the simple power of his story.  Our life is meant to be lived in the teachings, with humility and wisdom with respect for ourselves and the world, with courage in the face of danger, so that we will lead with love and honesty, and in that way come to know our truth. To know the teachings of the grandfathers is easy, to live them is hard. Thank you my young friend for a life well lived and lessons well taught.


To read an overview of DAREarts’ week in Attawapiskat, click here.

DAREarts is a charity that empowers young at-risk Canadians aged 9 to 19 to ignite change as leaders. Visit darearts.com to learn more. DAREarts ‘First Roots’ program partners with First Nations to work alongside youths, local artists and elders and, together, address challenges such as school absenteeism, hopelessness and suicide.

PROJECT SUPPORTERS: Province of Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport; Ontario150; Northbridge Insurance; Anne Livingston; David & Teresa Thomas; Noront Resources; The Paul Semple Award; Allan Drive Middle School”

-posted with permission from DAREarts, read the original post here
Read DAREarts’ profile on ArtBridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory and Map

DAREarts in Attawapiskat: “Our Stories are a Part of Us”

The following post originally appears in DAREarts blog and has been reposted with DAREarts’ permission. Special thanks to DAREarts for sharing this piece with us and for inviting ArtBridges to participate. For more information on DAREarts, please visit DAREarts.com 

“In June 2017, DAREarts returned to Attawapiskat FN for a week of empowering workshops that helped many youth discover their voices and inner leadership. DAREarts workshops are facilitated by DAREarts artist-educators in partnership with the community. 

The first of our team to arrive in Attawapiskat FN was DAREarts artist-educator and cinematographer Peter Elliott, who met with the grade 7s of Kattawapiskak Elementary School on Friday to introduce them to DAREarts and the art of filmmaking. The class watched several short films created by other DAREarts First Nations youth. Peter then dared the class to take a big risk without being afraid of failure: they were going to create their own short film in just ONE day! In groups, the class ventured out onto the school grounds armed with cameras and creativity, capturing a variety of different angles and shots. Peter then used this footage, along with stock footage of an alligator, to bring their hilarious creation to life as “Attawapigator”. When they saw their video it was a raging success, and they asked for an encore viewing. Despite many of the students being quiet and shy, they were now ready to take on more DAREarts!

DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon, DAREarts artist-educator and musician Glenn Marais, and ArtBridges’ Seanna Connell arrived over the weekend to join Peter. The team met the grade 9 class at Vezina Secondary School on Monday morning, and after a creative introduction the class welcomed knowledge keeper John Matthews. He captivated the students with a story of the first clan, the Bear Clan, offering the youths inspiration for the week ahead. In the afternoon the team met the grade 12 class and repeated their introductions, and John Matthews returned to share the story with them as well. Both classes were invited to work with the team in the evenings throughout the week. The first evening had a small turnout, but was massively productive! Colin arrived first, spending the evening making beats on the keyboard with Glenn, brainstorming lyrics with Laura, and learning to use the video camera with Peter. Tyler then arrived, making a beeline for Glenn who worked with him to compose a whole melody on the keyboard. Chandler and Jamie were the last to arrive, working with Laura and Seanna to capture footage and write the film’s plot.

Tuesday was fast-paced, with the class formed into two groups: the Musicians and the Film Crew. The musicians worked with Glenn and Laura on the verses for their song and created music for their short film, while the film crew started casting and shooting their first scene with Peter and Seanna. A few of the youths were hanging back, but they took action when given the roles of assistant director, set photographer, and editor. In the evening, youths Keenan, Colin, and Jack Jr. (who is also a DAREarts Leadership Award recipient) arrived right away. Keenan worked with Glenn and Jack Jr. to record two rap verses he had written during the day, and Colin was joined by another arriving youth, Chandler, to go out and film using the shot list.

On Wednesday, another group was created: Visual Artists! Throughout the day, the musicians finished writing the chorus of their song and prepared introductory music for the film score. One youth, Ambrose, skillfully layered different notes and sounds to add the finishing touches to the chorus. The film crew worked on several group shot scenes in the teepee frame near the school, with youth Jade working as our set photographer. The visual artists created chalk pastel drawings of bears that were integrated into the film using green screen. In the evening, several youths met to record parts of the song, and Jack Jr. offered to narrate the film. Colin acted as audio engineer, Syvanna sang the chorus, Jack Jr. sang and recorded a traditional hand drum song, and Tyler rapped to add a powerful end to the track.

Thursday was a special Culture Days celebration at the school, so our team spent the day preparing the materials the youths had created. On Friday afternoon, everyone was welcomed to a special feast at the school that celebrated both the traditional Culture Days activities and the youths’ accomplishments with DAREarts. The feast began with a prayer and then everyone ate, enjoying many local delights. Once finished, they squeezed into teacher Mandy Alves’s classroom to screen the youths’ film, “Bear Clan”, and a slideshow music video created using their song and photography. There was laughter and joy all around! The students and audience squished together for a group photo before saying their goodbyes for the night.  It was the perfect end to a very special week, and the youths were so proud to bring smiles to the faces of their elders, teachers, families, and community members.


To read artist-educator Glenn Marais’s reflection, click here.

DAREarts is a charity that empowers young at-risk Canadians aged 9 to 19 to ignite change as leaders.  Visit darearts.com to learn more. DAREarts ‘First Roots’ program partners with First Nations to work alongside youths, local artists and elders and, together, address challenges such as school absenteeism, hopelessness and suicide.

PROJECT SUPPORTERS: Province of Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport; Ontario150; Northbridge Insurance; Anne Livingston; David & Teresa Thomas; Noront Resources; The Paul Semple Award; Allan Drive Middle School”

-posted with permission from DAREarts, read the original post here
Read DAREarts’ profile on ArtBridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory and Map

Resource Highlight | Framing Community – A Community-Engaged Art Workbook (Ontario Arts Council)

Framing Community – A Community-Engaged Art Workbook
Ontario Arts Council | ON | 2017

Framing Community – A Community-Engaged Art Workbook provides guidance on how to develop projects and points to resources, references and funding sources and offers examples of recent artist-led projects in the province. It is the new version of an earlier workbook, Another Vital Link, published in 1998. Community-engaged artist, educator and consultant Maggie Hutcheson was commissioned to look at how the practice, its principles and processes have evolved in Ontario over the past 20 years.”

Click through the ArtBridges Resource Portal to learn more.

Resource: Arts Equity Video Series (Neighbourhood Arts Network)

“Neighbourhood Arts Network is very excited to share the Arts & Equity Video Series, using creative methods to communicate and virtually convene to spark conversation about arts equity and practicing the associated principles in a community setting.

In this 1st video learn about how flexibility and adaptability as an overarching principle to applying an arts & equity lens in your work and creative practice. In order to be equitable when engaging communities, it is necessary to be responsive. Video #1 & worksheet can be found here: http://www.neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/learning-room/learning/arts-equity-video-series-principle-1,-flexibility

The 2nd video speaks to how reflexivity and relationships starts with critical self-reflection; reflecting on how our own position fits with those we aim to work with. This sort of reflection helps when working to build and maintain relationships. Video #2  & worksheet can be found here: http://www.neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/learning-room/learning/arts-equity-video-series-principle-2,-reflexivity

The 3rd video addresses to how relevance and representation is used to make art more relevant to individuals and communities. Art can be a tool for social change! Be inclusive, relevant and representative of your community. Video #3 & worksheet can be found here: http://www.neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/learning-room/learning/arts-equity-video-series-principle-3,-relevance-an

In this 4th video learn how to be rooted within existing community contexts and initiatives. Consideration of community priorities and a clear benefit for participation is key! Video #4 & worksheet can be found here: http://www.neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/learning-room/learning/arts-equity-video-series-principle-4,-embeddedness

In this 5th demonstrates how inclusive and mutual support can sustain individuals and collectives in community arts practices. Video #5 & worksheet can be found here:http://www.neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/learning-room/learning/arts-equity-video-series-principle-5,-sustainabili

-submitted by Neighbourhood Arts Network
Read Neighbourhood Arts Network’s profile on ArtBridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory and Map

Resource Highlight | Possibility: Art, Community & Changing the World (MAWA)

Possibility: Art, Community & Changing the World
Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) | MB | 2014

“Part of Who Counts? A Feminist Art Throwdown, a symposium about art, feminism and artist-run culture in early April 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. The symposium was presented by Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) and the Manitoba Artist-Run Centres Coalition (MARCC).”

Click through the ArtBridges Resource Portal to learn more.

Resource Highlight | Artful Anti-Oppression: A toolkit for critical and creative changemakers (Vol.3: Systems)

avnu-artful3

Artful Anti-Oppression: A toolkit for critical and creative changemakers (Vol.3: Systems)
AVNU | ON | 2015
Nat Tremblay, with Anna Malla, Joce Tremblay, Leah Dolmage, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

“The arts can also be used as teaching tools to explore critical equity concepts in a way that is accessible & engaging for diverse learning styles & needs….This resource has been assembled through research, community consultations and drawing upon a legacy of organizing, education & socially engaged arts in the Americas. It holds critical theory & grassroots perspectives. It incorporates activities, ideas, concepts, stories, perspectives and art from dozens of creative change makers….It can be used for individual and group learning.”

Click through the ArtBridges Resource Portal to read the full document.

Resource Highlight | Artful Anti-Oppression: A toolkit for critical and creative changemakers (Vol.2: Ism’s)

avnu-artful2

Artful Anti-Oppression: A toolkit for critical and creative changemakers (Vol.2: Ism’s)
AVNU | ON | 2015
Nat Tremblay with Anna Malla, Joce Tremblay, Leah Dolmage, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

“The arts can also be used as teaching tools to explore critical equity concepts in a way that is accessible & engaging for diverse learning styles & needs….This resource has been assembled through research, community consultations and drawing upon a legacy of organizing, education & socially engaged arts in the Americas. It holds critical theory & grassroots perspectives. It incorporates activities, ideas, concepts, stories, perspectives and art from dozens of creative change makers….It can be used for individual and group learning.”

Click through the ArtBridges Resource Portal to read the full document.

Resource Highlight | Artful Anti-Oppression: A toolkit for critical and creative changemakers (Vol.1: Roots)

avnu-artful

Artful Anti-Oppression: A toolkit for critical and creative changemakers (Vol.1: Roots)
AVNU | ON | 2015
Nat Tremblay with Anna Malla, Joce Tremblay, Leah Dolmage, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

“The arts can also be used as teaching tools to explore critical equity concepts in a way that is accessible & engaging for diverse learning styles & needs….This resource has been assembled through research, community consultations and drawing upon a legacy of organizing, education & socially engaged arts in the Americas. It holds critical theory & grassroots perspectives. It incorporates activities, ideas, concepts, stories, perspectives and art from dozens of creative change makers….It can be used for individual and group learning.”

Click through the ArtBridges Resource Portal to read the full document.

Resource Highlight | It Can Be Done: How to Create a Community Play

 

lcaf-done

It Can Be Done: How to Create a Community Play
Labrador Creative Arts Festival | NL | 2015
Tim Borlase

“This handbook will show techniques used to animate young people to write about their own community….Emerging student playwrights will see examples of improvisation, choosing subject matter, character development, brainstorming, emotional memory, creating interior monologues through different theatrical styles in this online guidebook. It also contains interviews from the original creators of this work – many of whom now live elsewhere but have stayed proud of their own home community.”

Click through the ArtBridges Resource Portal to read the handbook.

Resource Highlight | Creating Together: Participatory, Community-Based, and Collaborative Arts Practices and Scholarship across Canada

creatingtogether

Creating Together: Participatory, Community-Based, and Collaborative Arts Practices and Scholarship across Canada
Wilfrid Laurier University Press | Canada wide | 2015
Diane Conrad, Anita Sinner (editors)

“Creating Together explores an emerging approach to research that combines arts practices and scholarship in participatory, community-based, and collaborative contexts in Canada across multiple disciplines. Looking at a variety of art forms, from photography and mural painting to performance art and poetry, the contributors explore how the process of creating together generates and disseminates collective knowledge….To illustrate how such innovative work is being accomplished in Canada, the collection includes examples from British Columbia to Newfoundland and across disciplines, including the fine arts, education, the health sciences, and social work.”

Click through the ArtBridges Resource Portal to read the full research paper.