Wiikwemkoong youths showcase art for National Youth Arts Week

Workshop participants gather for a group photo at the National Youth Arts Week gala held earlier this month in Wiikwemkoong.

WIIKWEMKOONG—The National Youth Arts Week Gala wrapped up in Wiikwemkoong with an unveiling of art projects at the band council chambers earlier this month, with young artists and their elder partners gathering to show off their creations all while being livestreamed on the worldwide web.

Naomi Mishibinijima, tourism arts development officer with Wikwemikong Tourism, welcomed everyone to the gala, introducing Lawrence Enosse, director of Wassa Naabin Community Youth Services Centre. Mr. Enosse called the art on display “very inspiring. It’s nice to see their creativity and passion.”

Mr. Enosse noted that Wiikwemkoong was named as one of 41 Ontario youth-friendly communities and the only First Nation among those ranks. He said it was only fitting that a community with such a distinction should host just such a gala, celebrating youth artists.

Riley, age 6, and mom  Jenilee Pangowish show off their mixed media masterpieces at the National Youth Arts Week gala.
photos by Alicia McCutcheon

Councillor Sylvia Recollet, the economic development portfolio holder, said that while it was National Youth Arts Week, it was also Mental Health Awareness Week. “Art and mental health go hand in hand,” she said. Art “creates a better youth, a better community member,” adding that when one looks at mental health, art is often a key process in healing.

Ms. Mishibinijima explained that Mr. Enosse approached her with the idea for a youth arts project that came with a quick turnaround but she pulled it off, awarding the project to Alycia Shawana, who has recently moved back to her home community. Ms. Mishibinijima said she was hoping to make the project an intergenerational one that brought youth and family together.

Ms. Shawana said she has been facilitating workshops for the past five years.

“Being a young artist myself, I know you go through many different stages to find your style,” she said.

“This gave them the opportunity to explore all kinds of mediums,” Ms. Shawana said of the mixed media art. “It was the perfect way to incorporate the youths and their families. There was no right or wrong, they could do whatever they wanted.”

Darlene Bell, at podium, tells the audience what the art workshop meant to her as Naomi Mishibinijima and Alycia Shawana look on.

The youths then displayed their works one by one with their partners for the audience to admire.

“It was a great workshop,” participant Darlene Bell told the group. “I met new people and learned a lot. Thank you to Naomi and Alycia for the workshop and my mom for coming.”

One mom noted that she was “so happy for the workshop that allowed her son to be creative in a public setting.”