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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 

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 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 

“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 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

Video: Youth Explore Potential Solutions to Barriers in Their Lives (Youth Agencies Alliance)

Youth Explore Potential Solutions to Barriers in Their Lives

Youth Agencies Alliance (YAA) has come together once again to host an art show with the intention of helping youth explore belonging, urban & world issues, and human rights from a positive perspective.

Artists from Art City, Graffiti Art Programming and North End Art Centre (Ndinawe) facilitated a series of workshops with over 130 participants from the 18 youth-serving organizations across the city that make up the Youth Agencies Alliance. In these workshops we asked youth to discuss barriers in their lives, and they have created artwork and a unique hashtag reflecting their ideas for solutions to breaking down these barriers. We hope that by being part of this project, youth will feel empowered and become actively engaged in discussions within their own communities.

[An exhibition Aug.23-26 launched] the videos and artwork youth made to go along with their hashtags. These videos and art pieces will continue to circulate online throughout the campaign and serve as a topic and inspiration for other youth and the general public. We hope that the campaign will take off and serve to connect youth from many regions of the world and for them to come together to discuss the notion of ‘breaking barriers’ and affecting social change.”

-from Youth Agencies Alliance

Highlights of ArtBridges’ Site Visits in Montreal 3/3


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Catherine, ready for a day of site visits!

Last June, ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’s Project Director, Seanna Connell and Francophone Community Arts Coordinator, Catherine Lamaison, spent a week in Montréal to visit and meet 19 community partners and learn about the work that they do on the ground. While most of the ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’ team’s work is done online or over the phone from our Toronto office, getting a chance to travel, see community arts programs in action and finally meet partners in person is always highly inspiring and gives all the meaning to our work.

We’ve decided to dedicate a series of three blog posts to the amazing community arts and arts for social change initiatives we’ve discovered in Montreal. Check out part 1 and part 2 here.

Thursday June 23rd
After three days of visits, we were so inspired by all this new information and discovery that it became difficult to talk about it right away, we needed time to process it all. In the meantime, we kept going and were on our way to more exciting meetings for our last day in town: Exeko, Cafe Graffiti, NDG Seniors Atelier, Les Impatients, ELAN and Cirque Hors Piste.

Exeko is a very innovative and progressive organization offering a variety of programs, all extremely creative and aiming at achieving social inclusion through art and philosophy. Exeko’s approach consists in creating collective thinking spaces where everyone is equal, through the organization of critical or creative workshops and programs.  They are Spectrum Productions’ neighbours, in a big arts building in Le Plateau.

Raymond Vigier, founder of Café Graffiti, in the arts studio.

Café Graffiti is an organization that has existed for 30 years in the Maisonneuve neighbourhood, relying on an interesting business model. The publication of a magazine (a prevention tool sold all over Québec, mostly in schools, in French and English and edited by the founder of Café Graffiti, Raymond Viger) and the profit of a bar/restaurant across the street (Bistro Ste Catherine) generates money to fund the organization. Café Graffiti aims at offering a space where youth can come, hang out, make art and feel safe, while developing professional skills, fighting exclusion and marginalization.

Seanna dropped in to see the renowned organization – Les Impatients. Aside from large meeting/art rooms and gift shop there is a museum that showcases sculptures made by program participants. Here art therapy, hands-on arts activities and incredible art exhibits are all in progress! montreal newsletter photo 7Seanna dropped in at the NDG Seniors Atelier’s weekly workshop founded and run by Nicole Macoretta, a masters student in art therapy at Concordia. This new Art Hive is situated in the rec room on the ground floor of a senior’s residence. This beautiful weekly program works so well because it is accessible to the residents and neighbourhood (the program came to them! rather than residents travelling out to a program); there are no overhead costs, as there is an arrangement with the facility to not charge rent; the facility has given them a secure storage area for art supplies (so that materials don’t need to be carted back and forth every week and so that artwork in progress can be stored). Mostly it works so well because Nicole has created an environment for creativity that is warm, supportive, non-judgemental, joyful and accommodating. Participants are free to work on a new weekly art activity or their own project.

Seanna met with Christie Huff with ELAN – English-Language Arts Network that “connects, supports, and creates opportunities for Québec’s English-speaking artists and arts communities.” ELAN works on expanding access to affordable English language arts activities and workshops. Christie was interested in learning more about ArtBridges and to exchange ideas.

Finally, Catherine met with Karine Lavoie from Cirque Hors Piste. Cirque Hors Piste is a social circus organization. It is the Montréal cell of Cirque du Monde, the social action branch of Cirque du Soleil. Offering marginalized people with an alternative space and creative inclusion, the organization promotes individual, social and collective learning through the circus arts. It provides social circus workshops where outreach workers and circus instructors join forces. Regular sessions, sessions in public spaces, and creations in intensive mode – all aim to support the personal, physical and social development of young people in precarious situations. The overarching goal is to help participants create new relationships with society. It was exciting to learn more about the whole social circus network in Canada!

From left to right: Seanna Connell, Russell Jr Ratt, Mathieu Melançon, Catherine Lamaison and Craig Commanda.

From left to right: Seanna Connell, Russell Jr Ratt, Mathieu Melançon, Catherine Lamaison and Craig Commanda.

Friday, June 24th
Seanna and Catherine met early on St. Jean Baptiste Day morning, left Montréal and drove almost 4 hours north-west to Kitigan Zibi reserve to meet young video artists at the Wapikoni Mobile outreach program. The mobile – an RV equipped with state of the art video equipment was plugged in for the month to an electrical outlet at a rest stop in the community. Matthieu- our host – introduced us to Craig and Russell – young community residents whom had previously made a few 5-minute videos. We sat, talked and watched their videos and learned all about Wapikoni. Wapikoni provides Indigenous youth with equipment, skills and guidance on how to tell something personally meaningful through video. The stories are poignant and deeply moving. Youth are fully part of all the processes of video conception and development and the outcomes are professional quality. The videos are shown around the world. After a couple of hours we high-tailed it back through Ottawa and down the 401 to Toronto, so stimulated from all the amazing people we met and projects we saw and learned about. What a privilege! Thank you community partners in Montréal!!!

-Seanna Connell and Catherine Lamaison

Highlights of ArtBridges’ Site Visits in Montreal 2/3

Last June, ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’s Project Director, Seanna Connell and Francophone Community Arts Coordinator, Catherine Lamaison, spent a week in Montréal to visit and meet 19 community partners and learn about the work that they do on the ground. While most of the ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’ team’s work is done online or over the phone from our Toronto office, getting a chance to travel, see community arts program in action and finally meet partners in person is always highly inspiring and gives all the meaning to our work.

We’ve decided to dedicate a series of three blog posts to the amazing community arts and arts for social change initiatives we’ve discovered in Montréal. Check out yesterday’s post to read about the beginning of our site visits trip!

Wednesday, June 22nd
On our third day we separated in order to visit more community partners. While Seanna explored more art hives (La Ruche St Henri and Le Milieu) and met with Marilyn Lajeunesse, Educational program officer at the Musee des Beaux Arts, Catherine met with Emily Laliberté from Funambules Media and later on with Joel Naggar, intervention coordinator, who gave her a tour of the famous Day Centre for homeless youth Dans La Rue. We met for lunch in the middle–with Esther Filion from Rouage and Seanna ended the day with a meeting with Chad Lubelsky at the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation.

Since 2008 the Funambules Medias Team has worked towards social change by providing marginalized and at-risk populations, mostly youth, with media training and material for them to create, to express themselves and to reflect on systemic causes leading to the criminalization of youth. Funambules Medias also offers production and broadcast services.  Every summer, they organize the Festival de Films Sous les Etoiles, a big outdoor and free film festival in Montréal parks. This event is very popular and features screenings of documentaries related to social change. Finally, they produce various kinds of documentaries and institutional films for organizations driven by social change endeavours.

Collectif Porte-Voix's stunning prevention book "Parcours, Chacun son Temps".

Collectif Porte-Voix’s stunning prevention book “Parcours, Chacun son Temps”.

Musee des Beaux Arts
Seanna met with Marilyn Lajeunesse, Educational program officer at the Musee des Beaux Arts. She had learned about the museum’s progressive community engagement program “Sharing the Museum” at a recent Power of the Arts Forum. Started 15 years ago, this program, supported by the museum’s foundation, collaborates with diverse community partners both outside the museum’s walls with communities and inside the museum’s art studios. Community partnerships include homeless drop-ins, eating-disorder clinics, and refugee centres. Dans la Rue was founded by Father Emmet Johns “Pops” in 1988. This charity organization helps homeless and at-risk-youth, providing care and services related to their immediate needs and to help them acquire skills needed “to lead more autonomous and rewarding lives.” The Day Center offers two artistic spaces running programs on a weekly basis (a visual arts room and a music recording/production room), along with additional drop-in programs led by other community arts organizations such as Cirque Hors Piste.

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La Ruche St Henri’s main room

La Ruche St Henri Art Hive in St. Henri is based in a storefront with a spacious backyard and stellar cellar (a depot for found materials once bound for the landfill and now repurposed for art-making.) Seanna visited with facilitators, Sarah Tevyaw and Nicole Macoretta, during the open studio workshop for seniors. Piano, loom, spinning wheel, books, ink, indigo dye, gardening and pencils…one can get involved with any of the supplies and projects, enjoy a cup of tea and chat with other participants in a relaxed, quiet and warm community studio that inspires creativity, camaraderie and belonging. La Ruche collaborates with neighbouring organizations including a hospital for cancer patients. Outpatient peer-support circles meet here to make art in a setting alternative to hospital. What a great community partnership! (Read more here.) Catherine and Seanna both met with Esther Filion from Engrenage Noir / ROUAGE. “Engrenage Noir, founded in Montréal in 2002, is an non-profit organization. Its program ROUAGE supports activist art practice financially and through training and networking. It aims at partnering with community organizations defending peoples’ rights and their members who share a similar form of oppression or social exclusion in order to see how an activist art project can support their work.”

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Kay (on the right) and her visiting friend at Le Milieu

Seanna then met with Kay Noele at the Le Milieu – Atelier et Café de Quartier, an Art Hive near metro Beaudry. This small corner-store art studio/café has floor-to-ceiling shelves of art supplies open for the community. One person was sewing on a machine, another working on a silk screen, another writing. Delicious cake was ready and coffee was brewing. (Sales pay the rent!) Open for the community for free, this community art studio is run as a co-op with fee-paying members. Anyone can be a member by paying about $50. Members are encouraged to volunteer to keep the doors open for approximately 3-hour periods, teach an art activity, organize supplies or help out at the café. The co-op finds enough volunteers to run this open café & studio every day (7 days a week!) year-round. What every city neighbourhood would benefit from! Kay and the few facilitating the co-op make the work look easy and fluid, but there is an art to making this work so well. Visit and find out!

At the end of a busy day of site visits, Seanna met with Chad Lubelsky, a brilliant Program Director with the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation. This was a chance to thank Chad for the foundation’s support to ArtBridges and to keep the conversation going. The foundation has provided ArtBridges with the means to develop a theory of change, an evaluation framework, impact evaluation, as well as project development and capacity building. Chad loved to hear about our site visits and had some suggestions about other programs to see. We talked about the uniqueness of community arts and arts for social change projects going on in Québec and indeed through all regions in Canada- how projects vary from city to city, region to region, based on language, culture and resources.

Highlights of ArtBridges’ Site Visits in Montreal! 1/3

Last June, ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’s Project Director, Seanna Connell and Francophone Community Arts Coordinator, Catherine Lamaison, spent a week in Montréal to visit and meet 19 community partners and learn about the work that they do on the ground. While most of the ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’ team’s work is done online or over the phone from our Toronto office, getting a chance to travel, see community arts program in action and finally meet partners in person is always highly inspiring and gives all the meaning to our work.

We’ve decided to dedicate a series of 3 blog posts to the amazing community arts and arts for social change initiatives we’ve discovered in Montréal. There is something very particular about that place, and about the work that is made possible there. Seanna and myself have been amazed by the originality and innovation of programs, the variety of organization models, the dedication and drive of mostly volunteer staff, the resources available and the crucial understanding of the importance of community arts and arts for social change. We believe that stories and ideas need to travel more across provinces, and particularly across languages, and that the rest of Canada needs to be more aware of the kinds of projects that are developed in Québec. Here are highlights about each organization we met.

Monday, June 20th  la place commune Our first stop was in the Parc Extension neighbourhood, at a fairly new art hive — part of the Art Hives Network called La Place Commune. Primarily a coffee shop restaurant whose revenues help support the rent and staff, La Place Commune set up an arts corner with supplies that can be used for free. Come for a coffee or just to make art or both, this place is open and the members believe in shared economy. We then headed to Westmount to meet with Ruth Gagnon and her assistant Anne-Celine at Elizabeth Fry Society du Québec. We talked specifically about their art programs and about the Art Entr’Elles collective and its projects. Art Entr’Elles is a non-profit organization gathering criminalized women and professional artists in collaborative projects. Through the making of art, this collective of women support self-esteem building, sense of belonging to a community, critical thinking, socio-political expression and reinsertion to society. Tuesday, June 21st We started our second day in Montreal with a meeting with the Culture Days team in their Mile Ex office. Culture Days is a 3-day event across Canada aiming to get community engagement happening around the arts. This event is particularly important for communities that have little art events on a regular basis. They have provincial chapters that run Culture Days in each province independently. It was particularly interesting for us to have a discussion with another nation-wide organization. Catherine then met with Alyssa Kuzmarov from Productions Oracle near Concordia University campus. Productions Oracle is a bilingual non-profit organization providing at-risk youth and adults with creative modes of expression through writing and video-making workshops. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences through an empowering process of documentary-making while developing social skills and values of respect and tolerance. Productions Oracle also offers production services for social and educational videos as well as promotional and corporate videos.

Liam and Dan, co-founders of Spectrum Productions.

Liam and Dan, co-founders of Spectrum Productions.

We stopped by Spectrum Productions summer camp, in Le Plateau. Working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum, Spectrum Productions is a community-based non-profit organization that provides “social, creative, exploratory and employment opportunities” through workshops, summer camps and various programs focusing on film and media production. Most of the programs are run in their own space part of an arts building in Le Plateau, with multiple rooms and professional video equipment. At the end of a day of site visits we were so happy to finally meet Jacinthe Laforte for the first time! Jacinthe has been translating ArtBridges/ToileDesArts content from English to French since 2011 remotely. She was originally referred to ArtBridges by Engrenage Noir / ROUAGE. What a delight to finally meet in person after 5 years and enjoy a glass of wine together! Don’t miss the rest of our site visits highlights in Montréal in tomorrow’s blog post!

Jacinthe Laforte and Seanna Connell. from ArtBridges

Jacinthe Laforte and Seanna Connell. from ArtBridges

Wapikoni Mobile: What a Stop-Over Looks Like (Kitigan Zibi, Québec)

In June, Seanna Connell and myself got the great privilege to be invited to one of the Wapikoni stop-overs, in the Kitigan Zibi reserve in Quebec. After a week in Montreal visiting a series of community partners in the city,  this was a wonderful way to end our trip. Discovering the Wapikoni in action, meeting the team and talking with Craig and Russell, two Indigenous youth who have already made several movies with the Wapikoni, (some of them were selected to film festivals around the world) was priceless.


From left to right: Seanna Connell, Russell Jr Ratt, Mathieu Melançon, Catherine Lamaison and Craig Commanda in front of the Wapikoni mobile studio.

The Wapikoni Mobile is a travelling studio for audiovisual training and creation of first nations. It was co-founded in 2004 by Manon Barbeau and the Council of the Atikamekw Nation Youth Council and the First Nations (currently known as First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Youth Network).
Well-known in Quebec and in Central America, the Wapikoni is now hoping to expend and develop new partnerships with allies in the North and West of Canada.

A stop-over usually lasts a month, during which the participating youth can make between 6 and 10 movies with the Wapikoni team. The team is composed of mentor filmmakers, local coordinators and youth workers. What particularly struck Seanna and I, while discovering the films that Craig and Russell shared with us, was the quality of the final products and the depth of the message shared in each video. We were both really moved. While the process of film making is essential to the Wapikoni mission, the outcome of the films produced is also crucial. The quality of those films help them travel around the world to various festivals and to raise awareness on Indigenous realities, giving a voice to the youth.

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Watch the making of Kitigan Zibi 2016

“Wapikoni in Brief:

Mobile studios fully equipped with cutting-edge technology that “travels to” First Nations communities.

30 communities from 9 different nations, visited to date.

Since its initial stages, more than 3,500 youth trained or initiated to documentary film or musical recording, where 300 to 500 new participants are added on each year.

50 short films and 30 musical recordings created every year in Canada and abroad.

A collection of its kind in the world, featuring more than 850 films and 500 musical recordings; an exceptional First Nations cultural heritage.

100 awards and mentions earned in prestigious national and international festivals.

Numerous distinctions awarded to Wapikoni Mobile such as the 2014 Intercultural Innovation Award from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group, the 2011 Rights and Freedoms Prize, the Honorable Mention Award at Plural +, a festival organized by UNAOC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the 28th Grand Prize of the Montreal Council of Arts, film category.

The mobile studios accumulate thousands of kilometres every year visiting new communities.

A non-for-profit organization and a registered charitable organization that employs a dozen people in its administrative offices and approximately 60 contractual field workers, a third of them Aboriginal.”

I highly encourage you to learn more about the Wapikoni on their website and to browse the gallery of films available.

To learn more about the Wapikoni, click here
To discover some of their films click here

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Catherine Lamaison, Artbridges Francophone Community Arts Coordinator
-Source: Wapikoni
Read Wapikoni’s profile in ArtBridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory and Map

VIDEO: Breaking the Ties that Bind Us | Lora Northway | TEDxThunderBay

“Lora speaks of helping youth discover pride and self worth, and points out art can break the ties that bind us, not only with our own growth, but in acceptance of others.

She makes the case, art is the teacher, and we are the students, if we can stop and listen to what is being said.

As an outstanding artist in her own right, Lora would willingly give up her own work, just to help others discover the healing properties of creative art.

Lora was named one of this year’s Emerging Cultural Leaders by the Artist-Run Centres & Collectives of Ontario (ARCCO). The first-time award celebrates people who are ‘exceptional, emerging, creative champions.’

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Posted with permission from Lora Northway
Read Die Active Art Collective (Definitely Superior Art Gallery)’s profile on ArtBridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory and Map

First Nations Youth and DAREarts Connect Hockey and the Arts (Webequie, ON)


“First Nations Youth and DAREarts Connect Hockey and the Arts
Arts-based Program to Re-Frame the Culture of Sportsmanship
WEBEQUIE, ONTARIO (Marketwired – Feb. 16, 2016)

TODAY, youth and elders in the remote fly-in-only Aboriginal community of Webequie FN are putting their creativity to work as they embark on week-long artistic exploration of hockey, sportsmanship and culture. The NHLPA have donated hockey sweaters and Scotiabank Hockey have provided toques and TD MusiCounts and Long and McQuade have provided musical instruments for this special, hockey-arts team.

These youth are part of DAREarts First Roots, an arts-based Indigenous education program, facilitated by DAREarts artist-teachers, in partnership with the community. Over the last 8 years, they have worked together to address challenges such as school absenteeism, hopelessness and teen suicide.

Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie FN explains, “We have our fair share of social problems here but the DAREarts program really seems to work with our students.” He continues, “The fact that it is arts-based means it is easy for our kids to adapt to and be good at, and so they want to come to school as a result.”

This week, DAREarts will blend the community’s love of hockey with the arts to address good sportsmanship, anti-bullying, culture and intergenerational collaboration. Guided by the DAREarts team of Indigenous artist Cathy Elliott, Juno-nominated musician Glen Marais, and Lead Teacher, Laura MacKinnon, along with community elders, the youth will explore the Indigenous history of hockey (they invented the game!), paint hockey masks and compose an original song to be performed with hockey moves and traditional dance at the community-wide PowPow on February 20th. The project will be posted on social media and showcased at DAREarts First Root Feast in Newmarket, ON February 25th.

Marilyn Field, DAREarts Founder says, “The personal growth in the youths as a result of their creating is nothing short of exceptional. We are so proud of them.” She continues, “With hockey and the arts, these youths will use art, words, music and dance to share an important message of good sportsmanship to all the community and beyond.”

DAREarts First Roots program is part of DAREarts’ national initiative to give underserved youth the confidence, courage and leadership skills to resist negative peer pressure so they can ignite positive change in their lives and in their communities. Due to the remoteness of Aboriginal communities, the DAREarts team flies into communities for one to three week-long periods to work alongside local Aboriginal artists and elders. In addition to Webequie, ON, DAREarts has been invited to numerous other First Nations communities and is currently seeking funding to meet these invitations.

DAREarts is a 20 year old national charity (#88691 7764 RR0002) that empowers underserved Canadian youth with the confidence and courage to ignite change as leaders, using innovative arts education. Recognized for its role in the development of leadership in at-risk kids across Canada, DAREarts continues to reach out to more communities across the country. DAREarts stands for Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence. DAREarts’ 5-year program works with 9-19 year olds from schools in underserved communities, empowering them to be leaders. For more information, visit or visit

DAREarts lead supporters are: Northbridge Insurance, Guy Carpenter, Scotiabank, TD and The Ontario Arts Council. Additionally, DAREarts First Roots program supporters include Noront Resources, Sarah Haney, Anne Livingston, Dave and Teresa Thomas, RBC Foundation, TD MusicCounts, Long and McQuade and the NHLPA.”

Posted with permission from Marilyn Field. All photos courtesy of DAREarts.
Read DAREarts’ profile on Artbridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory and Map


“Children of God” and Community Healing Through Theatre: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator

Cathy Elliott is an artist educator with DAREarts’ First Roots program. It’s an honour to be able to share her stories with the ArtBridges community and I want to thank Cathy and Marilyn (the founder of DAREarts) not just for their amazing work, but also for their willingness to share. I hope you enjoy!
– Cora, Indigenous Community Arts Coordinator & Communications Assistant, ArtBridges


It gets a little difficult sometimes to remember that the word “healing” had more power before it became a made-for-tv catchword, or a politician’s promise or a meme. I have difficulty saying it. Its meaning has been worn down, polished thin through constant use. But it is the only word I can use for what I wish to attempt to describe as a monumental event that has had an effect on my life.

Corey Payette contacted me last summer to audition for a workshop production his musical, Children of God. When I found out what the theme was, and the subject matter, I wondered – how can you approach a subject like this and how do you present it to the people who have been damaged by generations of abuse?

Trigger. React. Release. Rejoice. Heal.

Most of the cast is predominately Indigenous Canadian. We all have or had family members who went to the Residential Schools. We knew about the stories that were being told. We’d heard them before. For me, it was my cousin Pat who went to the Shubenacadie school. Who talked about it, who seems to be still working it out. Playing the record over and over in her mind until it spills out and begins with the words, “Those nuns…”


Note from Cathy Elliott’s journal: A beautiful first day with Corey Payette and the company of “Children of God.” Wow. I’m overwhelmed by just being here. We speak of such universal things I forget where I am… and to think: we are rehearsing in the chapel of one of those Residential Schools. And this is the view I took, when I got there, out the window, not realizing where I was. Our Elder, a survivor of the school we were in, described looking of that very window as a child, longing for her home. This is the direction she was gazing at, so many years ago.

We rehearsed in the former Chapel of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School now called Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Chief Louis Centre.  Elder Evelyn Camille came to bless the space and talk a little about the school and what this production meant to her. She described looking out one of the windows and visualizing her home, hundreds of miles away. She was five years old.

This school closed in 1978. I was still in college.

Walking up to the school was like walking into a horror film. I saw an NFB film that depicted a Christmas in this school, featuring little Indian girls in angel costumes, happy to be here, while some of their schoolmates were lucky enough to go home for the holidays and spend them with their families.

Even now, it makes me a little nauseous. I thought a lot about my Grandfather, his siblings, my cousins, the generations of kids who went to the Shubenacadie Indian School in Nova Scotia. As we heard the little kids playing and talking as they walked past our doors on their way to the nursery school down the hall. As we looked at the 24 hour Crisis Line and considered calling.

I had nightmares during this time. I couldn’t shake it all off. It was like a boulder on my heart, pushing down. But because we had the opportunity to dissolve that mass by singing, drumming, moving through that world with the help of our co-cast members and director Corey Payette.

We did our first run-through for an audience that consisted of workers from the now reclaimed building. They were staff members from the building itself, teachers, Elders, Survivors and their family members. We were all devastated at the end of that run-through. It was really hard to hear the reactions of our audience, but it was good to have one all the same.


There is laughter and lightness in this play that saved us all from wanting to slit our wrists. Or run away. Or just cry for hours. (Although, some of us did, we were unable to staunch the tears for a while. A lot of hugs and handholding.) Corey, who has lived with this story for eight years of development, shook us out of what could become dam, and encouraged us to use this pain and remember why we are doing this.

That word again.

Opening up wounds, letting the pain out, examining the underlying causes of our grief and shame and anger…

The public performances were equally difficult, but rewarding. I folded my tongue around Ojibwe words and nuances.  I walked off the stage at the end of the show on rubbery legs. I stood in the wings and loved this cast with all my heart. I loved the audience for its courage. I loved our creative team for their care and brilliance.

I loved myself in this role.

It became so much more than a role for me. I sang for my Mom. I sang for the women and men in Webequie First Nation back in Ontario who lost their childhood in the schools and their children to suicide. I sang for all the kids I’ve worked with, in the countless arts projects we did together with DAREarts and other arts organizations. I sang for the fathers who look beyond their own feelings of shame to see that their communities need them. I sang for the Elders who came and smudged and blessed every thread, every paintbrush stroke, every voice, every piece of material that was in that Kamloops theatre.

The talk-backs at the end of the three performances we did (I think we could have filled the house for a full run – people drove from a day away to see Children of God.) were like a big hug. Sometimes a shake. But mostly hugs. We talked with Survivors who went to the very school we rehearsed in, and some had good advice and concerns but mostly gratitude for Corey’s work. It was good for the cast to sit and decompress with our audience. It was like we’d all gone on a big trip and weren’t quite ready to go our separate ways.


Community was a huge factor here. It wasn’t a one-way conversation. It was a circle of artists, teachers, clergy and health workers that made this miracle happen. When people see the path to a constructive way to examine the inconceivable, they band together and come up with a collective way to heal.

The last performance was different from the first. Corey knew I was taking this stuff home with me at night. He told me that the last song, “Bamaapii Ka Wab Migo,” is a celebration of life. A release. That, that was the moment when I could let all of this grief go. To send it off with the smudge and the music. I didn’t have shaky legs at the end of the last show. Chi Miigwetch, Wela’lin Corey, for this healing gift.

Related links:
Urban Ink
CBC interview with Corey Payette
My comment about Community Arts, specifically Indigenous Arts ,with Artbridges

Read Cathy’s previous posts:
03/30/15 – Paving a Future – The Ice Road to Tuk: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator
12/15/14 – You’re Gonna Save the World: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator
10/30/14 – Thunder Bay & Rexdale – Too Much in Common: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator
07/04/14 – Excellence is Earned: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator
05/23/14 – Introducing – DAREarts Atlantic: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator
04/29/14 – DAREarts Out on the Land in Attawpiskat: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator
03/24/14 – My Drum’s Journey: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator
02/16/14 – It Starts With a Circle: Stories from a DAREarts Artist-Educator

Read DAREarts’ profile on ArtBridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory and Map
All photos courtesy of DAREarts