DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Guest Post–Cathy Elliott–Attawapiskat Spring

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A month ago, DAREarts artist-as-teacher Cathy Elliott travelled to the Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat, Ontario, to empower the children and the community through the arts. The following post is her written report from day five of her DAREarts journey:

DAREday Five: A fond “see ya later”

I cannot begin to say how fulfilling this experience has been for me.  Thank you DAREarts, for sending me here.  Thank you, Chief Spence for coming and supporting your kids and community.  It was great to see you out there in the audience, enjoying the bounty of beautiful songs that the kids wrote.

It was really interesting, going through all the words, thoughts, impressions, imagery and just plain kid world fun and distilling it all down to works of art.  The parents who came on the insistence of their children got a big surprise.  Six new songs.  All very different from each other.  All touching, funny, daring just like the kids.  I got to know Attawapiskat from a very personal viewpoint and a world view that was shared freely. 

DAREarts is a program that reaches out to communities through the arts. It’s also a foundation that takes care of its artists, fairly.   I’m always shaking my head in wonder of it all.  When a young man, who isn’t a musician, just a guy that came to see what was going on, asked me how I came to be doing this, I explained.  Marilyn Field simply changed the course of my artistic journey, and affected my life profoundly.  Lucky, lucky me.  To learn so much about patience and love from a foundation like this.

And you teachers!  You kick solid gold a**!  My gawd, you love those kids so much.  I can see it in the way you respond to every little step they make. 

Listening to vocal layer on new song after school

I can take a page from your lesson plan.  Thank you for your help. Especially since I came in and turned your classes up side down. Please stay in Attawapiskat for a long time.  Those kids like you and respect you.  Don’t be the wonderful person who comes in for a year and then leaves.  I can see some people who belong. You’re it.

The grade six students will be the first class to graduate in the new school.  My hope, and I’m sure you hope, and the people in Att and folks all over NDN country, that more and more kids graduate.  There will be a surge of young Aboriginal people out there, ready to work and improve their home towns.  To put in to the economy of this continent.  If, in my life time, I see a country that can sustain two distinct realities, two nations, I will see a miracle.  But, as I watch something come from nothing, I witness miracles.  Maybe this is one I’ll see.  Just sayin’.

If you visualise it, it might happen.  The tv in my room is like a magic mirror. Channel 20.

There’s a skiff of snow on the ground, and it’s right cold out there. The Spring has backed off for a bit, but I don’t feel the chill.  I’m warmed by the experience I’ve had, and will have again. 

Now, to bed.  In the morning, pack, do up some discs with the songs and pictures for the school and Band, then catch a plane.

And start working on the Karaoke Versions of these songs so that you all can sing along with us! 

Cathy’s personal blog can be viewed at http://cathyelliottcom.blogspot.ca.


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