A few years ago, Heavyshield approached Glenbow about having a group of children visit the museum’s Indigenous Studies collection area to look at objects related to their heritage and, under the guidance of an elder, engage in cultural learning. Specifically, the kids Heavyshield was interested in bringing were being served by Kainaiwa Children’s Services. Through holistic programming based on traditional values as outlined in the declaration of Elders, “Kainaysinni,” Kainaiwa Children’s Services Corporation (KCSC) works with the children and families in need of support and protection to become positive, healthy contributing members of their communities.
Their first visit led to several more by groups of kids accompanied by KCSC staff and caseworkers, and the success of these sessions led Glenbow Indigenous Studies curator Joanne Schmidt to look at ways to expand the experience and provide positive lasting memories for the children, staff and caregivers.
“My thought was, rather than just bring them in, have them look at the collections and then turn around and go home [which is often outside of their home communities], it would be really interesting to see if we could help these kids develop a greater connection to their culture through art,” she explains.
Schmidt approached four regional artists to each lead a specialized workshop, with the intention of exhibiting the resulting artwork created by the participants. Niitsitapi-Blackfoot writer and zine artist Sarah Scout took on a zine-making workshop and Piikani artist Florence Shone led a painting workshop. Scout is a Sixties Scoop Survivor, a Ward of State from 1982 – 1999, and was the coordinating artist for Darkness and Light: Survivor Art of the Sixties Scoop at Mount Royal University last year, which included work by Shone.
“As they had both been through the system, I thought they would be especially suited to teach the kids art because they have a certain sensitivity and insight into their situation,” says Schmidt.
Each workshop began with an elder leading a smudge and prayer and then interacting with items from Glenbow’s collection that were related to the day’s workshop.
From there, the kids simply exploded with creativity and enthusiasm, as evidenced by their work, which now makes up the exhibition, Art of Resilience.
“[The workshops] sparked their interest in different art forms and actually made them think they could do that thing – they could be a photographer, they could be a painter,” says Schmidt, who notes that the excitement wasn’t just limited to the kids. “Our elder, Blair First Rider, made two [zines]. I asked if I could keep them for the exhibition, and he said, ‘you can keep this one but I’m taking the other one home!’ He loved it. He was cutting and pasting and glueing. He said it was just such a joy to be like a kid again.”
The Art of Resilience is on view on Glenbow’s third floor until March 1, 2020.
Art of Resilience Mini-Gallery