Written by DAREarts Atlantic Coordinator & Lead Teacher, Trish Gibbon.
DAREarts Atlantic participants gathered with families on Monday, June 19th for their Showcase at Alderney Landing that celebrated their accomplishments in DAREarts this year. DAREarts is in its third year in Atlantic Canada. This year’s program was inspired by the life of Dr. Jerry Lonecloud, a Mi’kmaq Medicine Man who was a leader of many who shared stories, oral histories and artifacts of Mi’kmaw culture with local museums before his passing in 1930. Dr. Lonecloud’s sharing is the reason we have access to so much history of the Mi’kmaq people today at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax. It is this spirit of sharing stories that inspired our program this year.
Students first considered their own lives and what their life story might be one day. They thought about their interests, talents and dreams. They then responded to questions about what the DARE values – Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence – mean to them personally, and shared all of these responses in accordion-style books. This was the start of reflecting on and sharing their own personal stories with each other and then with the larger community on display at the showcase.
Renowned Mi’kmaw artist, author and musician Dr. Alan Syliboy worked with us again this year. He shared his own passion for storytelling via his paintings, drawings, animations, music and published book. Alan was himself inspired by Dr. Lonecloud and had created a series of Lonecloud portrait prints. These in turn inspired the students to draw their own pencil portraits of Dr. Lonecloud! Alan spoke eloquently about his memories of Lonecloud and how his own band, called Lonecloud, was named after the famous medicine man. Alan sees music as medicine. He believes wholeheartedly in the power of the arts as a healing tool. Dr. Syliboy shared some techniques with the students to help them create successful portraits and paintings. The students loved creating their incredibly creative visual art with Alan.
DAREarts’ drama team challenged the students to consider elements of a story and how we develop characters. Ross Unger, Gina Thornhill and Dane Fader led them in a collaborative drawing activity that morphed into drama games that morphed into the students considering the myriad character traits that make up personality and how that impacts who a person is and what they do in their daily lives. Each student created their own ‘character’ inspired by the day’s events and shared these with one another in an interviewing game. The students then reflected on their own “character traits” and recorded them in their accordion books.
Shalan Joudry is a Mi’kmaw poet, musician, storyteller, author and performer. The students learned a great deal as Shalan shared stories through music, dance and in the oral storytelling tradition. The Friendship Song will forever be on replay in our heads; our students enjoyed sharing this beautiful song alongside Shalan at their showcase.
On her second day with DAREarts, Shalan led a workshop in oral storytelling that involved having the students create their own stories using visualization. Shalan asked students to close their eyes and bring to mind a very bad day, then their favourite place, a helping animal, etc. She then helped the students connect these stories to the characters they had developed earlier; they envisioned overcoming their very bad day by receiving a helpful character trait “gift” from their character. This then linked to Dr. Jerry Lonecloud as a healer. The students practiced their leadership by sharing their stories with one another and re-telling each other’s stories using words and actions.
Each student created an acrylic painting on raw canvas. They each chose an image to paint that had been part of our workshops: from storytelling with Shalan, character and drama work with our drama team, or visual arts with Alan. Their paintings were a way of reflecting on and then sharing a piece of their own DAREarts story with others.
Our time together culminated in the students adopting a leadership role and sharing all that they had learned and accomplished in DAREarts with younger children in their schools. They brainstormed, created and presented with poise and confidence. We are so very proud of them.
Many thanks to our local Mi’kmaw heroes: Dr. Alan Syliboy, Shalan Joudry, and our team of talented artists: Ross Unger, Gina Thornhill and Dane Fader.
Also my deep and sincere thanks to our DAREarts school teachers Chelsea Pottinger, Sarah Englehutt and Paulette O’Connor who were keen to offer DAREarts to their students despite the political unrest in our provincial education system.
Thank you also to Katie McDonald who helped with setting up for our Showcase and took pictures and videos the night of the event. Thanks to Alderney Landing for hosting us for our Showcase.
Artist Alan Syliboy says, “By exploring Mi’kmaw culture together, the children are building a lasting empathy for each other. By creating together, they are becoming leaders who can themselves ignite change.”
DAREarts Atlantic thanks its key supporters for making this program possible: The McCain Foundation, Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank and RBC Foundation.