Photo courtesy Geneviève Anthony
It’s been a very busy two weeks for youth of Webequie, Ontario, their teachers and darearts artists-as-teachers Geneviève Anthony, Linda Carson, Sinclair Russell, Glenn Marais, and Lorraine Montreuil. Webequie is a fly-in only Aboriginal community in northern Ontario, where the youth face the challenges of isolation and poor nutrition, that contribute to high teen suicide rates and prescription painkiller abuse. For the fifth consecutive year, darearts has been invited to work with the Webequie community to deliver our arts education program that is grounded in aboriginal culture and tradition. The program encourages students to unlock their potential, using the arts with Discipline, Action, Responsibility, and Excellence.
At the request of the community, this year’s program has evolved to include fashion design along with music, painting, photography, acting and filmmaking. By learning to sew and work with different fabrics and patterns, the creative abilities of the youth are coming alive in their traditional designs. By building marketable artistic skills, darearts ‘goal is to show the youth that their creativity has value both within and outside of their community. With limited job prospects within the community, increasing their skills will help them generate income while remaining in the community. Helping the youth to create a brighter future for themselves and their community is a priority for darearts.
Within the first few days of working with the youth, their deeply creative talents were immediately apparent to our artists-as-teachers. Juno Award Nominee songwriter Glenn Marais is currently working with the youth to develop and record their own song, and he describes the process that has occurred so far:
“Evan, a very gifted guitar player has come up with the music, inventing a chord along the way. He did brilliantly. We placed the lyrics in front of him that Krystal and I re-worked last night based on the brainstorming. Krystal took the lead and really did amazing. I told him to let the song come to him. … This song feels like healing and catharsis and although dark at first, we are heading to the light with love….” Below are the in-progress lyrics, written by several collaborating Webequie youth:
Heavy hearts, silent words
unspoken, forgotten, no direction
Showing up is half the battle
Losing loved ones, family and friends
Feeling alone, I can’t see
Letting go of the anger in me
Help me, help me get back
because love can make you feel anything
Next week, darearts teacher Geneviève Anthony and traditional teacher, Lois Whitehead, will spearhead the continuation of the kids working on their clothes while teacher Romeo Fournier will oversee the musical and visual art creations. Later, they will be joined by Aboriginal artists-as-teachers Cathy Elliott, who has worked with darearts in Webequie every year, and Jeremy Proulx, returning from last year.
One student wrote on Facebook: “Many voices together make one awesome voice.”
These youth are finding their voices in many creative ways and the results will be awesome.