DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

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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

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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.


DAREarts, the Spirit Bear, and Ontario 150: A Reflection

Written by DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon & Artist-Educator Glenn Marais.

DAREarts has been with working with Indigenous communities for 12 years.  The first community we worked with was Webequie First Nation. We were invited there after facilitating an arts program at a Junior Rangers camp, a branch of the military that teaches young men and women from different reserves how to do search and rescue in the far north.  It is a source of employment and a direct method of engaging youth in the development of self-esteem and leadership skills.  It was there that DAREarts founder, Marilyn Field, first met Bill Jacob from Webequie.  He spoke to her about his community and asked if DAREarts would come and help the young people there. Webequie was reeling from youth suicide, to which Bill had lost his own 14 year-old daughter.  This reality is so difficult to comprehend, but DAREarts has always worked with the most challenged youth in the most difficult of circumstances and we humbly accepted this invitation.  With open hearts and minds, we flew to the community, wishing only to bring some hope and empowerment to the young people, through what we had to offer – songwriting, poetry, dance, visual art, photography, film and music.  That first trip began an ongoing relationship with that community that has expanded, through invitations, to include many others across northern Ontario and the rest of the country.

For DAREarts, Ontario 150 is about taking the time to reflect on, and renew the relationship between Indigenous people and us.  It’s a chance to amplify and elevate the voices of Indigenous youth, too often kept on the fringes, or not heard at all.  It is also a reminder that it is essential that we move forward together in a better way.  It’s an opportunity to acknowledge the diversity of Indigenous peoples and communities.  Each First Nation we worked with this year  – Webequie, Marten Falls, Attawapiskat and Neskantaga – invited DAREarts for their own reasons and under their own auspices.

The ‘Spirit Bear’ project has been created in partnership with the Stratford Festival in alignment with the world premiere of the play “The Breathing Hole”, a story of 500 years of Arctic history through the eyes of a polar bear.  In each community, the program began with a bear story or teaching shared by an elder, which then guided our creativity.  While ‘Spirit Bear’ was a shared theme in all communities, the local teachings and stories that were shared were different.  The experiences of the young people are different.  The artwork created is different.  The language, culture and traditions, are different.  This is a beautiful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate these unique and essential voices.  In any community we work with, the young people always teach us more than we teach them.  Ontario 150 should be taken as a reminder for us to become better listeners and better partners moving forward.

*          *          *

The Four Directions of the Spirit Bear Project

Neskantaga, a new community to us, is the infant, the newborn.  A budding relationship, only just started.  The young people eager to experience the arts, to try out their voices for the first time, to tentatively reach out and forge a new bond.  We are in the process of learning about one another. This was our first visit to the community and we hope to return.

Attawapiskat is the youth, our visits numbering only four.  Energetic, passionate, wide-eyed, and learning about its budding power.  A collection of voices so strong in pride and culture that you can sense the wave of change they will bring as they mature into leaders.

Marten Falls is the adult.  A community that has taught us so much over the many years we’ve visited.  They have taught us about love, about compassion, about patience, about responsibility and about the necessity of respect and honesty.  Every year we return to a group of youth willing to try, to work long hours and to share their creative voices.  While the relationship has existed for many years, every year it grows and changes and never stagnates.

Webequie is the elder.  A relationship that has existed for over a decade and continues to evolve.  The community that taught us protocol, humility, openness and responsibility.  The people and place that taught us to be inventive, flexible, inclusive and caring.  The community that opened our eyes to the experience of Indigenous people but taught us to look past outward appearances to the souls within.  Through patient, generous teachings, they taught us about community – how to build it and how to maintain it.  They taught us about the importance of going back – that change does not happen by flying in and out a single time.  They taught us you have to leave more than you take with you.  That relationships are paramount.  That trust takes time.  That you need to examine your own ego and intentions carefully as guest artists in someone else’s home.  That the time you spend outside of the program together – just as people – is essential.  That we should all listen more and talk less.

*          *          *

As we reflect on a Sunday morning, at the end of this wonderful experience, our minds and memories are full with a year that was beyond anything we could have imagined.

We picture the giant bear in Marten Falls, our adult community, from our first visit in October 2016.  It was constructed from empty water bottles, and we see it standing on the shore of the mighty Albany River gleaming proudly in the sun, her delicate frame crafted through hours of toil.  With the students, we were driven to create a symbolic icon that would tell the world that the people of Marten Falls have to drink water from a bottle and can’t drink from their own river, or a tap.  This needs to change. We remember the deep love we have for those students there and how acutely we felt the challenges of their lives.

Thinking about our second visit, a week later, we feel the warmth of our friends in Webequie.  In particular, we remember the presence of many former students coming together in a spirited homecoming, happily sharing their wisdom, talents and encouragement with our younger participants.  Most of all, we remember the laughter, the joy and the tremendous pride we have in our elder community.

We arrived in Attawapiskat, our third community, on June 04th 2017.  In a very short time, we created a film, song and visual art pieces with the high school students.   The young people of this community are incredibly self-aware and open about the challenges they face.  Their unmatched desire to have the world hear their message, unfettered by false media manipulation, motivates them to create and advocate.  Their message is one of pride and a desire for change. The youth of Attawapiskat are tired of false promises and empty hopes. They have amongst them, a young man with the potential to lead our entire nation. He has the presence of Nelson Mandela and the wisdom of a man twice his age. His words and bearing moved us in ways that we will never forget and he personifies the changes needed in Attawapiskat.  He speaks to a way of living in harmony, respect and truth we can all learn from and aspire to.

Here in Neskantaga on June 18th 2017, we are on the final leg of our journey.  We reflect on this charming, friendly community that has a discipline and structure in their school of the highest level that we have seen in our travels.  There are many First Nations teachers and the students respect and honor their voice.  The young people here have become quick friends with us, opening their hearts and minds and we are so grateful.  This week, we have painted and created music together, inspired by the teachings of Elder Mary, who taught us about the lives of bears.  It feels appropriate that we end here, at the beginning, in our “birth community”, just as in life.

When we come full circle and look back on our journey through wizened eyes, we see again through the eyes of a child, the wonderful tapestry of life and know that our greatest gifts are the relationships that fill our hearts and minds. We have grown taller and wiser in the beauty and wisdom of the four directions and four communities that we have been so blessed to visit this year. We look back with indefatigable gratitude and joy at this glorious year with DAREarts.  Our leaning about the Spirit Bear and the spirit in each our young friends will live with us forever.

*          *          *

Have we found answers to the challenges of the northern communities we visited during this incredible year?  There are no easy answers to a life lived in challenging circumstances with a history that has cast a long shadow on our indigenous friend’s lives. We are not there to provide magical solutions to the struggles of life. This is not our purpose in coming to the north, but perhaps, is what we are often reminded of by these beautiful young people. Each community shared what they needed and where they were at and the music really expressed these emotions. We believe that the songs come forth from the hearts of the communities we visit. In Marten Falls, the song is mournful and a beautiful lament that had us in tears the first time we sang it. The Webequie song was triumphant in a way and sung with such resilient pride by elder Norman Shewaybick that it captivated us all. The song from Attawapiskat is very much like the youth we worked with, strong, clear, rebellious in its clarion call for justice and finally our community of elementary students in Neskantaga whose song is sweet and charming and ethereal in its sounds and very much like how we feel about the community. That it is charming, friendly and welcoming.

We are all connected to something universal and eternal and here on this year long journey, with new friends and old, we have come to a simple reckoning. We are DAREarts and we show up with open hearts and leave full of memories and promise from our youth.

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; Streetsville Secondary School

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DAREarts in Neskantaga: “Just like us, we take care of our own.”

In June 2017, DAREarts visited Neskantaga FN for the first time. The community faces many challenges, including a 20 year old boil water advisory, homes lost to mold and poor construction, and an ongoing state of emergency due to youth suicides. Our team of artist-educators worked with the grade 4 to 8 students in a week-long, leadership-based arts workshop that culminated in a community showcase.

The DAREarts team – Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon, Juno-nominated musician Glenn Marais, and artist Karen Cowderoy – were welcomed by elementary school principal, Haley Houle.  Learning the DARE values of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence, the children were bright-eyed and attentive, excited for the adventure ahead. They learned that the workshops were part of the DAREarts and Stratford ‘Spirit Bear’ project, connecting local stories and knowledge with modern and traditional art forms.  Elder Mary Sakanee, the school guidance councillor, shared her knowledge of bears, and inspired the children.

Throughout the week, the children worked in two groups: Musicians and Visual Artists. They moved seamlessly between these groups so that everyone could experience all of the workshops.  The musicians learned from Glenn how to use his recording equipment and software; create digital bear-inspired tracks and beats; brainstorm, compose and record a song; and come together as a choir. The visual artists worked with Laura and Karen to each create their own bear-inspired canvas painting; learn to photograph and project their sketches to transfer them to canvas; work together to create a large community mural; and practice a special “art walk” to showcase their creations. The younger students also learned bear-inspired choreography!

On their last DAREarts Day, the children presented a Community Showcase at the school for families, elders, teachers, and Chief Moonias to celebrate their accomplishments!  It started with an art catwalk where each child walked out with their paintings as their music played.  Some were still very shy but the audience cheered them on.  All of the children then gathered as a choir and sang the song they wrote, “Tease the Moon”. The audience sang along with the chorus! To finish, we played a slideshow of photos taken by the students and set to their song.  There was huge applause!  When everyone stood up to go to the feast, the Chief asked us to play the song again!   All the community members and younger students who worked on the mural gathered around it and proudly pointed out the parts they had done.  For a first showcase in a new community, it was remarkable: well attended, enthusiastic response, great conversations post-show, smiles from the kids and discussions of returning next year.

Chief Moonias talked about next steps. He wants all the paintings to get sent to Thunder Bay to be framed and then come back and be hung in the school and in people’s homes. He also pointed out that the creative brainstorming the students did with DAREarts is something they should do more often as a way to express themselves. He wants the students to become better prepared for high school and things they will have to face in life, like speaking up. He was so proud of what the kids had done and it was heartening to hear him thinking about next steps.

DAREarts Lead Teacher, Laura MacKinnon, reflected: “While the students were used to discipline and order at school, they had no schools arts experience: no music, no art beyond some colouring and crafts, no drama, no dance.  All the new experiences we presented were a challenge, but the teachers were really encouraging of the kids’ participation. The kids really enjoyed everything, and it’s wonderful to inspire their creativity and give them access to new ways of expressing themselves.  The Chief’s commitment to the community’s well-being is highly respected; he makes a lot of noise and won’t back down until real changes happen.”

The children of Neskantaga are incredible young leaders whose voices will power the community forward. They deserve to be heard, and DAREarts is helping them to ignite change. We are deeply thankful and humbled to have been welcomed into this community, and we look forward to seeing the future that these young leaders will build!

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; Streetsville Secondary School


DAREarts in Attawapiskat: “Our Stories are a Part of Us”

In June 2017, DAREarts returned to Attawapiskat FN for a week of empowering workshops that helped many youth discover their voices and inner leadership. DAREarts workshops are facilitated by DAREarts artist-educators in partnership with the community.

The first of our team to arrive in Attawapiskat FN was DAREarts artist-educator and cinematographer Peter Elliott, who met with the grade 7s of Kattawapiskak Elementary School on Friday to introduce them to DAREarts and the art of filmmaking. The class watched several short films created by other DAREarts First Nations youth. Peter then dared the class to take a big risk without being afraid of failure: they were going to create their own short film in just ONE day! In groups, the class ventured out onto the school grounds armed with cameras and creativity, capturing a variety of different angles and shots. Peter then used this footage, along with stock footage of an alligator, to bring their hilarious creation to life as “Attawapigator”. When they saw their video it was a raging success, and they asked for an encore viewing. Despite many of the students being quiet and shy, they were now ready to take on more DAREarts!

DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon, DAREarts artist-educator and musician Glenn Marais, and ArtBridges’ Seanna Connell arrived over the weekend to join Peter. The team met the grade 9 class at Vezina Secondary School on Monday morning, and after a creative introduction the class welcomed knowledge keeper John Matthews. He captivated the students with a story of the first clan, the Bear Clan, offering the youths inspiration for the week ahead. In the afternoon the team met the grade 12 class and repeated their introductions, and John Matthews returned to share the story with them as well. Both classes were invited to work with the team in the evenings throughout the week. The first evening had a small turnout, but was massively productive! Colin arrived first, spending the evening making beats on the keyboard with Glenn, brainstorming lyrics with Laura, and learning to use the video camera with Peter. Tyler then arrived, making a beeline for Glenn who worked with him to compose a whole melody on the keyboard. Chandler and Jamie were the last to arrive, working with Laura and Seanna to capture footage and write the film’s plot.

Tuesday was fast-paced, with the class formed into two groups: the Musicians and the Film Crew. The musicians worked with Glenn and Laura on the verses for their song and created music for their short film, while the film crew started casting and shooting their first scene with Peter and Seanna. A few of the youths were hanging back, but they took action when given the roles of assistant director, set photographer, and editor. In the evening, youths Keenan, Colin, and Jack Jr. (who is also a DAREarts Leadership Award recipient) arrived right away. Keenan worked with Glenn and Jack Jr. to record two rap verses he had written during the day, and Colin was joined by another arriving youth, Chandler, to go out and film using the shot list.

On Wednesday, another group was created: Visual Artists! Throughout the day, the musicians finished writing the chorus of their song and prepared introductory music for the film score. One youth, Ambrose, skillfully layered different notes and sounds to add the finishing touches to the chorus. The film crew worked on several group shot scenes in the teepee frame near the school, with youth Jade working as our set photographer. The visual artists created chalk pastel drawings of bears that were integrated into the film using green screen. In the evening, several youths met to record parts of the song, and Jack Jr. offered to narrate the film. Colin acted as audio engineer, Syvanna sang the chorus, Jack Jr. sang and recorded a traditional hand drum song, and Tyler rapped to add a powerful end to the track.

Thursday was a special Culture Days celebration at the school, so our team spent the day preparing the materials the youths had created. On Friday afternoon, everyone was welcomed to a special feast at the school that celebrated both the traditional Culture Days activities and the youths’ accomplishments with DAREarts. The feast began with a prayer and then everyone ate, enjoying many local delights. Once finished, they squeezed into teacher Mandy Alves’s classroom to screen the youths’ film, “Bear Clan”, and a slideshow music video created using their song and photography. There was laughter and joy all around! The students and audience squished together for a group photo before saying their goodbyes for the night.  It was the perfect end to a very special week, and the youths were so proud to bring smiles to the faces of their elders, teachers, families, and community members.

To read artist-educator Glenn Marais’s reflection, click here.

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; Streetsville Secondary School