DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

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Standing Ovations for Local Young Performers Alongside Renowned Musicians at DAREarts Holiday Cheer

View all photos courtesy of Pete Paterson here.

On Friday, December 8th at Chateau Windrush in Hockley, DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field and Vice-Chair J.C. Pennie hosted an evening of spectacular music and camaraderie to welcome the holiday season.

Guests holiday-shopped by purchasing art cards by local kids, jewelry by Air & Earth Design and stunning new stoneware from Farmhouse Pottery by local potter and ‘Canoe North’ leader, Allan Pace.  An original painting by local young artist, Ricky Schaede, sold in live auction.

Tenor Mark DuBois accompanied local teen singers, Darcey Baker and Duncan Lang as they wowed guests. Both were leads last summer in Theatre Orangeville‘s ‘Les Mis‘.

Juno-nominated Glenn Marais sang ‘Spirit of the North’ that he and Indigenous youths in the remote community of Webequie had composed as part of the DAREarts program.  Pianist, 21 year old Jesse Karwat stunned everyone with his formidable talent in Glenn’s original songs.  The caroling by all raised the roof!

Local leaders – MPP and Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition Sylvia Jones, Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson, Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock  and Theatre Orangeville’s David Nairn – inspired all with their insights into DARE’s Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.

With Scotiabank generously matching donations, the evening yielded over $10,000 which will help DAREarts empower many more under-served children across Canada. Visit www.darearts.com.


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DAREarts Documentary “Fill My Hollow Bones” Screened on Parliament Hill

From left to right: DAREarts National Director of Development Natasha Morano, Senator Dennis Patterson, DAREarts Founder & President Marilyn Field, and Senator Lillian Eva Dyck

On November 28th DAREarts proudly hosted the Ottawa premiere screening of ‘Fill My Hollow Bones’.  The film chronicles a DAREarts program that challenges youth in the remote Indigenous community of Webequie FN to find their voices through the arts, guided by teachers, artists and community elders. This special event on Parliament Hill was co-hosted by Senator Dennis Patterson and Senator Lillian Eva Dyck and sponsored by Bell Canada. Additionally, DAREarts would like to thank Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for supporting DAREarts’ recent trip to Webequie FN and this event.

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, MP

The evening began with inspirational remarks by The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. Simon Dwyer from Bell Canada introduced Senator Patterson.  Government and industry leaders gathered to watch the documentary and join DAREarts in paying tribute to the late Cathy Elliott, DAREarts’ Indigenous Program Associate.  CTV news also made an appearance to capture the evening.

DAREarts First Roots Webequie Graduate & Mentor, Eric Shewaybick

Following the screening, there was an interactive discussion featuring a DAREarts graduate youth from Webequie, Eric Shewaybick; Senator Patterson, DAREarts Artist-Educator and Juno nominated songwriter, Glenn Marais, and DAREarts Founder and President, Marilyn Field. The session was moderated by Natasha Morano, DAREarts National Director of Development. Our youth, Eric, spoke from the heart and shared his personal account of how impactful DAREarts has been in his community over the last ten years and in his own life. He has become a positive role model to show a path for those who need it most.  He proudly stated his two girls are now participating in the DAREarts program and eagerly awaiting the return of DAREarts next year.

Those in attendance saw firsthand the power of the arts.  In this year of Canada 150 and reconciliation, DAREarts was proud to share the voices of our Indigenous young people who are pouring their talents, intelligence and enterprise into their future.

The main message that was imparted upon guests was to both individually and collectively take bold steps forward to further empower Canada’s Indigenous youths with confidence, courage and leadership, using the arts which creates self-sufficient young adults.

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Happy Anniversary, DAREarts Webequie!

Written by Marilyn Field, DAREarts Founder.

I remember that night 10 years ago like yesterday.  As we gathered around the campfire at the Junior Rangers Camp, Webequie traditional teacher Bill Jacob invited DAREarts to come to the community.   Three months later, in our first circle in the school there, twenty youths and the DAREarts team started creating together.  Over the years, look how much we have accomplished together!  Youths, we learned so much from you. Meegwetch.  We are so proud of you.  You have the power within you to DARE to speak to the rest of Canada about things that really matter – like love, and caring for each other, and the land.  Your songs say it all.  Here are two:

Spirit of the North

Don’t Stop

We hope to continue walking with you for many more years to come.  “One step at a time” as you say, towards a strong community.  The future is yours.

We measure our success by your words:

“…The school has been fortunate to have had DAREarts in the community for 10 years, presenting an empowering youth leadership workshop that builds on the roots of self identity, resiliency, and strength to forge challenging future pathways and choices that are built on the local knowledge, teachings and traditions of community. In these 10 years I have seen a ripple effect. Proof is in the workshop this year; there is a mix of both alumni members and new youth and it is this kind of collaborative and mentorship process of combining the old with the new that the power of voice and the unity of self advocacy can ignite the kind of change that has a visionary power and sense of becoming that creates sustainable change: a future of visionary possibilities underscored by inclusion and diversity. The youth of today are the change of tomorrow. They are strong in who they are, they are responsible in giving back to community and they are diverse in their unique contributions to society. DAREarts is built on this philosophy and their consistent and ongoing dedication to Webequie youth over the years has been relentless.  The connection grows stronger each year. I do hope this partnership continues. Thank you!”  Mary Gardiner, Principal, Simon Jacob Memorial Education Centre, Webequie FN


DAREarts is deeply saddened by the loss of Cathy Elliott

We mourn the loss of our dear Cathy Elliott, DAREarts’ Indigenous Program Associate, a Mi’kmaq playwright, composer and visual artist. When asked 10 years ago by our Founder, Marilyn Field, to use her talents to help empower Indigenous kids in remote communities, and to help bring Indigenous culture to kids of all cultures, she embraced the challenge as her journey and never looked back.  She will be greatly missed by us all.

Cathy was with DAREarts for 10 years as an Indigenous artist-educator and writer.  With DAREarts, she found her Indigenous roots and reached beyond her talents as an artist, playwright, musician and actor to be an educator. From our very first sharing circle with the youths in Webequie FN, she embraced and practiced the DAREarts way of learning together from each other. Over the years, thousands of kids, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, found their voice and an inspired appreciation for our Indigenous culture by creating with Cathy.

Last year, Cathy returned to focusing on writing and performing plays and musicals across Canada about Indigenous culture.  She quickly became an effective leader in communicating our country’s traditional culture.

Her creative work remains to help us all carry on the conversations that will strengthen us as individuals with values to uphold.  That includes the thousands of DAREarts young people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that she inspired to ignite change through the power of the arts.

Dream, Believe, Achieve, Lead.

Donations made in tribute of Cathy will go the the Cathy Elliott Tribute Fund to Empower Indigenous Youths.

Read her DAREarts blogs here.

View the documentary she co-created with DAREarts kids and team here:
Fill My Hollow Bones” – Trailer
Fill My Hollow Bones” – Full Film
Girl and the Raven” – Short Film

View some songs she wrote with kids here:
Don’t Stop” with the youth of Webequie FN and Glenn Marais
Swimming in a Fast Current” with the youth of Marten Falls FN
Melkikno’ti (Courage)” with the youth of Sipekne’katik FN
Muskego Land” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Volcano” with the youth of Winnipeg, MB
We Are One” with the youth of Webequie FN
The Land Speaks” with the youth of Marten Falls FN
Roads of Webequie” with the youth of Webequie FN
Nation’s Creations” with the youth of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT
Keen Sabiko” with the youth of Webequie FN and Glenn Marais
Akimiski Island” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Déjà vu” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Goose Call” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Random Dreams” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN
Smoke the Wolves!” with the youth of Attawapiskat FN

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“This Summer, We Sailed a Tall Ship Across The Atlantic!”

Modified from the report by organizer Three Things Consulting: Read more here.

This August, 45 Indigenous youths completed the adventure of a lifetime as they sailed the Class A Tall Ship, Gulden Leeuw, across the Atlantic from Halifax, Canada to Le Havre, France.

We are proud of our two DAREarts grads – Jada from Webequie FN in remote northern Ontario, and Marlo from Vancouver – who dared to take this challenge!

Last May, DAREarts was invited by Board Director, AFN Regional Chiefs NS/NL Morley Googoo, to approach DAREarts Indigenous grads across Canada to participate in this project.  Called the Msit No’Komaq Tall Ship Project, it was to be a special voyage as part of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta. Paralleling DAREarts values, this project was a youth development and skills-building initiative for Indigenous young Canadians, organized by Three Things Consulting.

THE ‘Msit No’komaq’ Tall Ship Project

‘Msit No’Kmaq’ is Mi’kmaw for ‘All My Relations,’ and promotes a connection between all people and things. The project was a partnership between Indigenous communities and the Canadian government, with the aim of empowering 45 Indigenous young people from across Canada as part of Canada 150.

Arriving on board, the 45 trainees were called ‘Warriors’ and made responsible for running the ship, trained by the crew of Gulden Leeuw from the Netherlands.  Alongside watch-keeping, navigating and learning the ins and outs of sailing, the ‘Warriors’ also took part in daily leadership programs to ensure that they came away with new skills plus a greater understanding of themselves as leaders and the world around them.

About the Adventure

‘Msit No’Kmaq’ – the connection people have with each other and world around them – is a concept that is especially important for young Indigenous Canadians.  The youths felt that this passage was more than just a fun adventure; it was history in the making and a unique way to connect with one another and learn more about themselves as individuals.

All those chosen had gone through an extensive application process that demonstrated their commitment to balance in their school, work and family lives.  When this confident and capable group of young people first arrived at the dock before the voyage, they were already taking charge and putting themselves to work stowing sails and taking part in on-board life.

Gulden Leeuw arrived in Le Havre, France, for the final celebrations of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta on August 31st.  Organizing facilitator, Cheryl Bear, highlighted the benefits the youths found from their adventure.  “It has showed them they belong and they are important…” said Cheryl Bear.

“This trip has been an amazing experience. Thank you, DAREarts,” said DAREarts grad Marlo.

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The Spirit Bear flies to Stratford!

DAREarts Webequie FN youth Wendell presents PM Trudeau with a collection of DAREarts Spirit Bear songs & videos

The DAREarts-Stratford Spirit Bear Project culminated with an action-packed week in Stratford, Ontario, where six Indigenous youths from our remote northern First Nations – Attawapiskat FN, Neskantaga FN, Webequie FN and Marten Falls FN (Ogoki Post) – travelled south to engage in Stratford Festival’s new play called The Breathing Hole about a polar bear encountering five centuries of change in northern Canada.

One highlight was a visit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who joined the youths in their workshop and learned of their songs, videos, artwork and bear puppet-making. Their songs conveyed empowering messages from the youth of each community:

Marten Falls FN:  “…Dreams keep you alive
Shine through the dark of night…”

Neskantaga FN: “…Just like us, we take care of our own…”

Attawapiskat FN: “…Courage is the one thing that helps us gain
Our histories…Our stories are a part of us…”

Webequie FN: “Together, stronger, each of us has a voice
Stronger, Together, each of us has a choice
Mashkwe seewin maa moe (stronger, together)”

Inspired by The Breathing Hole, each participating community had created various art-based projects surrounding their own traditional bear story, as told by local Elders and knowledge keepers.  The DAREarts team of artists-educators dared 150 young people to find their voices and be leaders through their own creativity.

Meeting the Bard himself at the Festival Theatre!

Every day in Stratford came with new experiences as the youths saw a wider world. They took tours of the Festival theatres and costume warehouse, met members of the community and Stratford Festival’s Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and resident teaching artist Edward Duranyi, workshopped with cast members of The Breathing Hole, saw two Stratford Festival plays, and built the body of a bear puppet.  Many locals were eager to make this experience the best it could be for our youths by hosting activities including bowling, the movies, a boat tour of the Avon River, and backyard barbeques! These experiences were new and exciting for our northern youths!

Our week began with touring the Studio Theatre where The Breathing Hole is being performed. There, the youths smiled in pride to see the murals they had previously created in their communities with DAREarts displayed in the lobby and backstage as inspiration for the public and cast.  Before a workshop led by Indigenous actors, we made our circle a safe and sacred place with introductions and a smudge.  The actors told their stories about being a First Nations person working in theatre – their experiences both inspiring and empowering.  In the spirit of friendship and exchange, the actors taught our youths a song and dance from The Breathing Hole and we taught a song written by the youths of Neskantaga First Nation with DAREarts earlier this year.

“DAREarts and this trip have really helped my daughter by giving her the chance to be creative. You have to come back to our community.” – John Mathews, Attawapiskat FN parent

The DAREarts youths (and the mural by Neskantaga FN’s youth!) meet cast members Yolanda and Gordon of “The Breathing Hole”

We saw the Stratford Festival’s timeless Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet.  Much to the youths’ surprise, the language was English… but not any kind of English they had heard before!  It was their first time attending the theatre and the magic of the experience lit up their faces with wonder and amazement.

Guided by Michelle Jamieson, props assistant at the Stratford Festival, we built a bear puppet out of plastic water bottles, mirroring the original bear created in Marten Falls First Nation. This was a powerful statement addressing the reality of the boil water advisory under which so many First Nations communities live. With no road access, many communities are forced to fly in bottled water since the local water supply is not safe for consumption.  The bear is their message to the world:  “We deserve clean, drinkable water.”

“I like DAREarts because kids can show what they can do and they can learn new things from each other.” – Seequan, Webequie FN youth

On our last day in Stratford, we hosted one of the Festival’s renowned Forums, where we showcased the creative work done by the youths in their communities as part of the ONT 150 Spirit Bear Project.  Despite their extreme shyness, they each stepped up to introduce themselves. Their courage, leadership and spirit moved the audience. As a fitting and moving end to our trip, we watched a performance of The Breathing Hole, an overwhelming and beautiful story with a message to care for the land and one another – the same thing the youth themselves expressed to the world through their art.

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.

DAREarts’ “Spirit Bear” project’s education partner is The Stratford Festival. 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; and Streetsville Secondary School.

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2017 DAREarts Toronto Summer Camp – “Be not afraid of greatness.”

In the final weeks of July, 25 DAREarts Toronto Summer Campers leapt into the whimsical world of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Walmer Centre and the TSA (Toronto School of Art), thanks to the generosity of Northbridge Insurance, the TSA, Wells Fargo, United Way Worldwide, Coach Canada, and the Stratford Festival. The teens, aged 11 to 18, engaged in intensive arts workshops led by DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon, artist-educator Jennifer Parr, and DAREarts Lead Teaching Assistant Mackenzy Willis. Assisting the teens were our seasoned DAREarts youth mentors: Dante, Jaiden, Samira, and Sylvia.

In just seven days, our campers were dared to put on their own abridged performance of Twelfth Night, adapted for DAREarts by Jennifer Parr. The teens were eager to become their own theatre company after an introduction to the work. By the end of their first day together, they felt confidently versed in Iambic Pentameter and the plot of Twelfth Night. The following days were filled with workshops to help our campers refine their artistry as they worked toward their performance.

Visual Artist Tina Oehmsen-Clark of the Toronto School of Art led the campers through the process of creating their own backdrop masterpieces, where the campers used ink and alcohol to layer colours into abstract works of art. Volunteer Zlata Huddleston of Wells Fargo assisted the campers using her own arts experience. Musician Ciara Adams led a singing workshop and taught three versions of one of the most well-known Shakespearean songs, Feste’s “Hey Ho, the Wind and the Rain”. Kaitlyn Riordan, Artistic Director of Shakespeare in the Ruff, helped our young company delve deeper into the text of Twelfth Night, enabling them to better interpret Shakespeare’s verse.

On their sixth day of camp, our burgeoning company staged their final scenes and worked on rehearsing to perfection. Many even chose to stay for an extra hour to keep practicing! During the day they were joined by CBC Radio’s Rima Hamadi, who interviewed four of the campers and DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon. Listen here.

There wasn’t a shred of nervousness left as the campers arrived on their performance day. With great confidence, they did two full rehearsals of the show in the morning! On their makeshift stage decorated with their artworks, they greeted the audience after everyone settled in and then took to the spotlight. From the opening shipwreck ensemble to the traditional jig after the final scene, the campers supported each other with precise timing and flawlessly executed lines!

After the show, a reception allowed the teens and their families to connect with us about this experience. One parent shared how proud she was to see both of her daughters share an arts opportunity together, something they hadn’t done before. Another shared how important this was as her child’s school has been cutting back on arts programming. Many others shared how much this experience meant to their children, and how amazed they were at the calibre of their work. We wholeheartedly agree — we’re so proud of our campers!

To finish their camp experience, the teens had one more day ahead of them — their journey to the Stratford Festival to see Twelfth Night performed by a world-renowned theatre company! The trip began with a 2-hour drive from Toronto to Stratford, and upon arrival we were brought into the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s costume warehouse for a tour. The teens learned the history of many of the costumes, and were thrilled to be able to try on several pieces. After lunch in the park, we met with resident teaching artist Edward Daranyi to present a special mural created by the youth of Neskantaga First Nation as part of the DAREarts-Stratford Spirit Bear Project. We then journeyed to the Festival Theatre to see Twelfth Night, followed by a Q&A with actors E.B. Smith and Emilio Vieira. The day ended with a trip to Boston Pizza, where the teens had the chance to unwind and reflect on their experiences at Stratford. We then boarded the bus for the long journey home.

“This was my first time attending DAREarts Summer Camp, and it was an awesome experience. I was really nervous since it was my first time acting, but really quickly I felt comfortable. I think that this summer had to be the most funnest summer I’ve ever had. Thank you to everyone who helps with this program, I hope to see you next year!” – Candy

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. DAREarts is grateful to all its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne Livingston, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Summer Camp Education Partners: Toronto School of Art, Wells Fargo, United Way Worldwide, Stratford Festival, Coach Canada, and TDSB. We’d like to send a special thank you to volunteers Alan DunlopZlata Huddleston, and Kaitlyn Riordan.