DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

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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

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Guest Post: DAREarts Attawapiskat 2017 Reflection by Glenn Marais

Written by DAREarts artist-educator Glenn Marais.

DAREarts came to the community of Attawapiskat to hear a story about the original Bear Clan from a knowledge keeper, John Matthews, and to take that story and create a film, visual art, a song and a slideshow of pictures to accompany the music. We worked for three days, two seventy five minute periods, with the high school students on a very condensed schedule, including two evenings and one day after school.  What happened was incredible as the students and teachers came together and worked in the spirit of true partnership to create a stunning and moving cinematic interpretation of the story, with original music created by them and a powerful and moving song that expressed the story of their lives and their love of the land.

The sun sets late in Attawapiskat. At 10:00 O’clock it starts to go down and the night sky comes out, crystal clear constellations arcing across the stratosphere, a sailor’s map, starry legends over a world that sleeps but does not rest.  It rises early, breaking the horizon with a brilliant northern radiance illuminating the dusty streets and weathered roofs of the reserve.  The homes are falling apart after the tyranny of the long, cold winter and the morning sounds of rumbling trucks and nails being driven, blend into the chaotic orchestra of a community waking and beginning to move through the day. Its sounds are just like any other town or community coming to life with the promise of the morning. Only here, it is less about promise than survival. There is a magnificent white Catholic church, tall and majestic by the water with stained glass windows that tell the history of the people and whispers of apologies for past wrongs.  Truths have yet to come and apologies given for Residential schools and that is part of the healing that must happen. It is part of a history long buried, that has been disturbed, opened and left like a forgotten graveyard.

Today’s youth live within the reality of the schools ignoble past.  In the shadow of their parents haunted memories, they struggle to burst free and find the glorious sun that shines so long in the summer and hibernates in the winter. Yesterday, one of the high school students walked and talked with us and her words were true, direct and honest, filled with a piercing, unabated intelligence that captivated and charmed us and as she ascended the wooden stairs that are ubiquitous in this community, slowly opening the door to her home that rested in a state of decay, my heart broke for her and I felt ashamed because my feelings seem powerless to help her.

The name reserve fails to describe the pulsing heart of this community.  What a shallow name for a community of people.  We name things in this world for convenience of categorization and to displace the fact that we have committed wrongs. A dressed up wound still bleeds despite our arrogant nature and human nature is arrogant, particularly when it vaunts it’s self as civilized and tromps over anything that doesn’t fit inside it’s neat, tight lineage. The reserve isn’t a dumping ground for an inconvenient culture.  It is a living breathing community that celebrates and mourns, dances and shuffles, sings and cries like any other.  When you fly into a northern community, the sheer beauty of it is staggering.  Hundreds of pristine lakes and rivers dot the landscape of silty islands, whose fish laden waters and abundant wildlife enrich the land. The land is the mother and the connection runs deep, through memories, and stories of creation, and growth with 44 clans coming from the original clan bear clan.  An ancient system of identification and relationship to the animal world that kept the bloodlines as pure as the waters that surround this island community.  The name Attawapiskat means, “People of the parting of the rocks” and it is an island of many created by the surge of the mighty Attawapiskat river, where the people live in harmony with great respect for nature and the balance of life.

This land is much more than its surface appearance of dirt, dusty roads and broken homes. It has the pulse of the Earth mother and connects the people in ways we can’t begin to imagine. We look at land as possession, here it is the heartbeat of a world that is interdependent, with everything flowing and weaving in and out of a glorious kaleidoscopic tapestry that bedazzles the eyes and stirs the soul. It is the sound of a motorboat powering a launch into the rising sun, the crack of a rifle across a winter plain, bringing home food to a family during the cold winter season, and it is the cry of the pow wow singer whose voice is the sound of the elders echoing through the universe. What great spirit inhabits this land and what wonders await if we can learn to walk in humble shoes and beside our First Nations people.

I have heard people say we should remove them from the reserve and integrate them into society as if the “them” in this conversation are inanimate beings that we can move on some self-righteous chessboard. What about a question? How can we work with you to make things better for you? Where can we begin and sit down with you as brothers and sisters in a circle and come to an understanding and a reckoning of our true history, so that we can move forward together, like the two rows on the Iroquois Wampum belt, in a peaceful union? I don’t dream of such things, I speak of them and when I play my guitar and sing and drum, I sing to the heavens, the Earth, my family and my promise, to never stop until things change.  For now, I walk these dusty roads with my eyes, ears and heart open and look always forward to the sun, moon and stars, just like the words in the song that we wrote together:

“We are the sun, moon and stars, we are the trees
All around us, is everything we need
Everything we need is all around”

We live in an abundant world, made shallow by greed, and in this great land of broken promise and faded dreams are the glittering embers of a glorious past that knew, everything we needed was around us and not to take more than we needed. I heard a story on this trip from a noble young man of great character from Attawapiskat, who told us of being pursued by a wolf, when his skidoo broke down.  He told us how he shot around the wolf to scare him off and kept doing this even as the wolf closed in on him.  A man of lesser character would have killed the wolf.  He did not. This is the character of a man cast in iron and made of blood and bone who taught me so much with the simple power of his story.  Our life is meant to be lived in the teachings, with humility and wisdom with respect for ourselves and the world, with courage in the face of danger, so that we will lead with love and honesty, and in that way come to know our truth. To know the teachings of the grandfathers is easy, to live them is hard. Thank you my young friend for a life well lived and lessons well taught.

To read an overview of DAREarts’ week in Attawapiskat, 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

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“Together, Stronger, Each of us has a Voice”

Written by Glenn Marais, DAREarts Musician-Educator

imgp9722The week in Marten Falls started slowly with students reluctant to sit in our circle from a combination of shyness coupled with an unfamiliarity with our program.  Discipline, Action, Respect and Excellence blended with Traditional Teachings are the corner posts of DAREarts and we center all of our arts activities and leadership skills around these core values.  As we became familiar with the community and students, our level of understanding increased exponentially and our relationship with the students deepened as they bought in more and more every day. Together, we worked incredibly hard on a challenging art project, constructing a bear out of water bottles and tubing that was massive in size and dimension. So big it took three people to get it to move, two in the body and one for the head, which was independent of the body.  In addition, community members and students painted a large canvas of bears, all done in First Nations style.  Several tracks of music were created, as well as a rap song and an original song titled “Makwa Obwoo Momun”.  All this work created a common purpose amongst the teachers, community members, students and us.  Some of the students have incredibly difficult lives and are dealing with residual effects of abuse and neglect. The community show was incidental to the experience of creating it; the measurable pride the kids showed in performing for their community was tremendously gratifying and our collective memories will live with us forever.

taliyah-delora-lennoxEarly on Monday, after this exhilarating, incredibly emotional week in Marten Falls, we arrived exhausted in Webequie. We were picked up by Morris, the school caretaker, who dropped our supplies at the school and took us to our lodging for the week. We were all short of bedding and I was missing a bed; however this community can pull together and get things done fast, so by the afternoon, we had bedding and I had a bed!  Unlike Marten Falls where we all stayed together at a Bed and Breakfast, here we would be staying at different teacher’s homes. The weather was very rainy and cold and the roads were a muddy bog. The environment, coupled with our fatigue and separation, put us all into a funk of fatigue and low energy.  After a hearty meal, we all felt better and went to bed early to get ready for our first day.

circle-to-rehearse-the-song-banner-by-ashlynn-and-deloraWe noticed right away on the first day that the students here, Gr 7/8, were more animated and quicker to join in for drama games and movement.  The week here has been incredibly emotional. Webequie is home in so many ways and DAREarts is like a brand name up here.  All you have to do is mention DAREarts and you are greeted by knowing nods and smiles. Re-connecting with former students, elders and friends has elevated everyone’s spirits to a euphoric level. On Wednesday, Laura, Kaitlyn and I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony run by Bob Wabasse. We all felt that there was a purpose and a need for us to attend the sweat. Bob took his time and explained it all to us and we did two rounds of healing prayer and songs in the dark and steam-driven heat of the lodge. It was incredible. We all felt renewed, cleansed and invigorated. Our emotions are open and we feel deeply connected to this land, these people we call friends who feel like family and our sense of purpose and dreams for our students.

As Bob told us, when you live with honesty, truth and share your life, you will be connected to the creator and the universe. This is how we feel at this moment. Very connected to a special light and love that can only come from good hearted people, coming together.

Our song is called Mashkwe Seewin Maa Moe
Stronger Together
We understand it more now than ever.

Sunday is the community show.  40 youths showed up last night! There is much work to do, but our hearts feel lightened and carried by many hands.  We know that whatever happens in the show is only a small part of our journey. The realizations and shared experiences we have had are beyond measure. They exist between the stars, under the moon and across the Albany River, over Lake Winisk and down the same road that we choose to walk in harmony with our First Nations Family. We are blessed with so much love.

To our First Nations brothers and sisters
Thank you for your gifts

– Glenn for the DAREarts team


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; TD Bank Group; The Paul Semple Award; Allan Drive Middle School; Streetsville Secondary School

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DAREarts Vancouver: “Legendary! Spectacular! Legendary! Spectacular!”

That’s what our 25 students from Strathcona chanted as they entered the open studio space at the Vancouver Opera for the final day of DAREarts Vancouver 2014. These two words were the chorus of the song that the students created to celebrate their DAREarts experience.  During the one week program, our youth were empowered through the arts to be the best versions of themselves and overcome the issue of bullying.

Oscar Splits Vancouver

Oscar’s best version of himself involves doing the splits while in jeans. Amazing! (Photo: Roy Mulder)

Earlier this year, our students attended the Vancouver Opera’s production of Stickboy, an opera about the birth of a bully. Inspired by both the themes of Stickboy and its multimedia elements, the youth of DAREarts Vancouver created their own stories addressing bullying through animation.

Vancouver Set Building

Vancouver youth design the sets for their Stickboy-inspired animations. (Photo: Roy Mulder)

After a week of hard work, the youth screened their films for their families, members of the community and representatives from our lead sponsor, Northbridge Insurance. Two students, Tabitha and Darian, were the MCs for the screening. Though they began the week more reserved than their peers, both of them volunteered to take on the spotlight on the last day of program!

We were also honoured to have our Elder Mary Jane Joe (Ne’tkco) welcome the guests to the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people and invite them to celebrate the leadership of these amazing students.

Elder Mary Jane Dance 2

Thank you Elder Mary Jane for the warm welcome! (Photo: Roy Mulder)

Since our students also explored other art forms outside of animation (including music, dance, theatre, spoken word and sculpture), they joined our Elder in welcoming the guests with their own music and dance.

One of our students, Powell, particularly enjoyed the dance portion. After some initial troubles with discipline earlier in the week, Powell connected with our dance teacher, Mark Siller, and became motivated to participate. Dance helped Powell focus and stay motivated. By the end of the week, his role in the dance, as a bully who experiences a transformation, received great applause.

Vancouver Dance

Learning to dance! (Photo: Roy Mulder)

Our students also created a beautiful spoken word piece about the two wolves – a good one and a bad one — that live in all of us.  “Which one will you choose?” they asked the audience.

Excellent instruction by our artists-as-educators helped the students explore each art form. Through them, all of our students learned the importance of teamwork, going where you are needed, and how to display Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.

Teamwork Vancouver

Teamwork was the focus of DAREarts Vancouver 2014. (Photo: Patience Lavaillee)

Here’s what our students and guests had to say about DAREarts Vancouver:

“Animation was really fun and tiring and I am excited to perform for our community,” said Brandon, a grade 7 student.

Another grade 7 student said he was “feeling epic!”

“Thank you for providing this opportunity and for teaching our children so much!” said a school principal.

The animations were definitely one of the biggest hits with the students and it was great watching them all work so well together. Take a look at the video below to see the shorts the children created:

Many thanks to the youth who attended the program for the energy and creativity they brought to DAREarts. We would also like to thank the Vancouver Opera and Northbridge Insurance for all of their support, as well as our Lead Vancouver Teacher, Shelley MacDonald, and DAREarts Coordinator, Trish De Luca. Together, you made DAREarts Vancouver legendary and spectacular!

We can’t wait to return in January!

Like this story? Want to know more about how DAREarts is igniting change in youth across Canada? Make sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Marilyn and the five performers

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Breaking Bread and Breaking Records: Our Biggest Holiday Cheer Ever!

DAREarts supporters came out in record numbers this year for our biggest annual Holiday Cheer fundraiser ever! Thank you to everyone who attended in support of empowering at-risk children across Canada.

We could not have done it without:

A special thanks to our volunteers: Margaret and Robert Ohashi, Susan Huntley, Diana Janoski-Wronski, Brittney and Sierra, for ensuring the evening’s success!

Margaret and Robert Ohashi with Orangeville Depute Mayor Warren MaycockMarilyn Field with volunteer and Mary Small-BrettVolunteers Brittney and Sierra




Picture Left: Margaret and Robert Ohashi with Orangeville Depute Mayor Warren Maycock (centre). Picture Centre: Marilyn Field and Mayor of Adjala-Tosorontio, Mary Small Brett, with guest (left). Picture Right: Volunteers Brittney and Sierra.

A Night to Remember

J.C. Pennie and Marilyn Field (DAREarts Founder)

J.C. Pennie and Founder and President of DAREarts, Marilyn Field.

“Can you feel it? That this is a night you’ll remember in your hearts forever?”

That’s what our host for the evening, Founder and President of DAREarts, Marilyn Field, said as our five young performers left the stage.  All of our performers displayed talent far beyond their years.

After breaking bread served by Lavender Blue Catering, the evening’s performances began with Joelle Crigger, a 12-year-old fiddler who already has six years of experience, playing toe-tapping “Blackjack Whiskey,” “Alabama Jubilee,” “Wizard’s Walk” and “What Child is This?”

Joelle Crigger

Ella Stewart then sang the challenging solo “On My Own” from Les Misérables. There were audible gasps from the audience when she revealed she was just 10 years old.

As Ella sang the lyric, “But every day I’m learning,” we could spot her vocal instructor, Pamela Scott, supporting her student by whispering the words.  Ella was unsure about singing that song, but her teacher promised to support her throughout the performance, giving Ella the confidence to show the best of her talent. Afterwards, Pamela said, “She didn’t need me at all. That was all her.”

Ella Stewart

Ella Stewart

It’s a small example of what DAREarts promotes across Canada: helping children become the best versions of themselves.

“I remember when you two were 10,” Marilyn said to the next two performers, DAREarts graduates — both recipients of the DAREarts Leadership Award — sisters Angie and Kelsey Bhatia.  Accompanied by international country star, Ryan Laird, they performed “White Christmas” and “Silver Bells.”

Ryan Laird Joins Kelsey and Angie Bhatia

Ryan Laird joins Angie and Kelsey Bhatia on stage at Holiday Cheer

We were also privileged to enjoy 15-year-old opera singer, Katie Pound, performing “O Mio Babbino Caro” and “Nessun Dorma.” Her acting skills were just as finely tuned as her voice; even though she was singing in Italian, no one in the audience was confused about the emotions behind either song.

Katie Pound (second from left) with her parents, Leisa Way and Theatre Orangeville's David Nairn.

Katie Pound (second from left) with her parents, Leisa Way and Theatre Orangeville’s David Nairn.

The night culminated with all of the performers caroling with the audience, led by the acclaimed pianist Ruth Morawetz, filling Chateau Windrush with a hundred voices singing  carols like “Let It Snow,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Great music, great food and great company!

It truly was a night to remember in Hockley.

Many thanks to all of our supporters who purchased DAREarts cards at Holiday Cheer!

You can still support at-risk children this holiday season by ordering some of our Holiday Cards. Each card was designed by a Canadian child to support aboriginal youth.

Let Olivia explain why you should send a DAREarts card!

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What’s Your #WhaleTale? Kids DARE2draw Inspiration from Ken Hall!

What's Your Whale Tale?

The students at St. Benedict Elementary in Orangeville recently donated their creativity for a great cause: they’ve created DAREarts #WhaleTale Cards that will be sold to help empower Aboriginal youth across Canada! Why “Whale Tales,” you ask? This year’s card theme was created in collaboration with Ken Hall, an Orangeville-area sculptor who has harnessed his artistic skill as a voice for positive change, and was recently named “Artist of the Year” at the 2014 Orangeville Arts & Culture Awards.

Artist Ken Hall working with students at St. Benedict School

Ken Hall discusses the students’ whale tales as they draft their DAREarts Cards!

The whale is a commonly used symbol that swims throughout legends around the globe. The session started with the soothing sounds of whale songs playing on a stereo, turning the room into an ocean of sounds. Aboriginal artist Gloria Hope then drew the students into the theme with an Ojibway whale legend, explaining that the whale serves as a keeper of knowledge, wisdom, and stories.

Thoughtful smiles and a few whispers of excitement permeated the classroom as Gloria introduced Ken Hall, an artist whose own “Whale Tale” is being used to spread knowledge of current environmental challenges that affect both animals and humans alike.

Ken Hall shows his Legacy presentation

Ken Hall captivates the class with the story of Hope.

Ken’s whale tale centres on Hope, a killer whale that was found beached along the shores of Washington State in 2002. Hope’s body was found to contain the highest levels of toxic chemicals, including DDT and PCBs, ever recorded in an orca. She was named “Hope” by the local children, and she inspired Ken to construct his own artwork that would bring awareness to the challenges currently affecting the Earth’s ecosystems and the cost of neglecting the environment. His creation, Legacy, is a life-sized reconstruction of Hope’s skeleton made from reclaimed cedar.

As he shared the stories of Hope and Legacy, the students started thinking of their own causes and carefully drafted their ideas as images. With Hope’s story so fresh in their minds, many of the children started to draw whales of their own, while others began to draw pristine trees, lakes, and landscapes.

Gloria Hope working with students at St. Benedict.

Artist-Educator Gloria Hope shows a student how to blend the colours of the ocean.

We also had a special guest on the team; joining us from Dixon Ticonderoga, Kimberley Delgado was present to encourage the students and support the program. The students and DAREarts are all very thankful to Dixon Ticonderoga for donating supplies to DAREarts and giving the students pencil crayons to use and keep via the Prang Power program!

Prang Power products donated to the students by Dixon Ticonderoga.

The children were overjoyed to receive sets of vivid pencil crayons courtesy of Dixon Ticonderoga!

DAREarts would like to extend a very special thank you to photographer Pete Paterson and videographer Mick Partlett for their contributions to this year’s Whale Tales DARE2draw theme. Also, to all of our children who DARE2draw and help other children by making DAREarts Cards!

Children showcase their Whale Tale DAREarts Cards.

What’s your #WhaleTale?

To buy cards, click here or contact 1-888-540-2787 / info@darearts.com.

Click here to learn more about Ken Hall’s Legacy Project.

Click here for more information about the Prang Power program, including how you can earn free art supplies!