Cathy Elliott is an artist-educator with DAREarts’ First Roots Aboriginal program. DAREarts received an award in ArtBridges’ First Annual Recognition Awards for remarkable work in community-engaged arts in the category of Resiliency. Here, Cathy shares her thoughts on the award and how it relates to the FNMI youth she works with in Canada’s remote, fly-in only communities… Thanks for sharing, Cathy!
- Cora, Indigenous Community Arts Coordinator
“ArtBridges is a hub of communications, support, and inspiration for community based arts groups and individuals. DAREarts just received a cherished award from ArtsBridges for DAREarts First Roots Aboriginal program, which delivers arts education in collaboration with schools, artists and First Nations all over Canada.
The “Resiliency Award” is very special to us, because it recognizes the challenges that not only we, but FNMI kids and their communities experience in remote areas, specifically First Nations fly-in only communities in the North.
We have a saying: “If you can’t go forward, step sideways,” which is something that our kids and their parents know intimately. This is an ingenious way to solve problems. Sometimes, things just don’t go the way they were planned. We improvise. As artists working in their communities, we have learned from the best: the artists we work with, the young people and the Elders.
The challenges can be deceptively simple or devastatingly complicated. I’ve seen a snowfall or drop in temperature kybosh three days of artistic development – or a plane that won’t land, or, sadly, a funeral of a loved one turn a week into days of re-planning, re-scheduling, re-thinking. My own mother’s death on Valentine’s Day put a huge amount of pressure on the two other artists who were working in Marten Falls FN. They had to press on and make the final presentation day happen without my help (I was flown home for Mom’s funeral) Funerals in the communities often make us step sideways. Out of respect, all activities stop until we can start up again. The young people are prime examples of resiliency. They work with us to make their final work of art happen. That’s the Discipline part of our values.
The artists we thank are Linda Carson, Lee Pham, John Cowling, Peter Elliott, Glenn Marais, Jeremy Proulx, Waawaate Fobister, Laura MacKinnon, Tanya Senk, D’Arcy Moses, Genevieve Anthony, Francois and Jennifer Aubrey, Zoee Maxwell, Julian Sale… They all stepped sideways when needed.
The community teachers who contributed their talents and advice and let us disrupt their schedules are heroes to us. They carried on the arts and values after we left.
Last but not least: local community artists, musicians, painters, beaders, drummers, – you are our foundation. This award is for you, too.
Stepping sideways is a way to step forward. It’s a way of going around obstacles and building resilience. It teaches us that there are many ways to teach… and learn. One step at a time. Never stopping.
Miigwetch, Wela’lin, Mahsi Cho, Quyanaini…there are not enough words for thank you.”
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