HOPE in the ART

Earlier this week, I observed and participated in a discussion in a Grade 5 classroom about residential schools and the impact they had, and continue to have, on generations of Aboriginal families across Canada.  It was amazing to watch these young students explore openly a topic that affected over 150,000 Canadians, facing each other in two concentric circles and sharing observations and thoughts.

With a son who is 50 percent First Nation with grandparents who went to residential schools, the healing is still happening, the reconciliation between them and their past, their government and their families.  In a series of activities led by Shelley MacDonald and Hazel "Issaapaki" Deranger from LTTA (Learning Through The Arts), these young people from Westview School spent valuable time being reflective, respectful and iterative about a period of Canadian history that remains elusive to many of us.

A different kind of reflection and immersion will take place on May 26th, as the community comes together to inspire HOPE in the ART.  The official kick-off to Homelessness Awareness Week, this two-hour event will take place at Keyano Art Gallery, a collaboration between the Centre of Hope, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, the "I Am A Person First" Stigma Reduction Program, and Northern Lights Health Foundation.

We see people who are experiencing some form of homelessness every day, especially those of us who live and work in the downtown.  We drive by them as we go up and down Franklin, we see them grabbing a few minutes of warmth in bus shelters, and we notice them waiting to grab a hot shower, a fresh pair of socks or a friendly visit and cup of coffee at the Centre of Hope early in the morning.  But how often do we really stop and think about the human being going the experience of being homeless, suffering from an addiction, being without a job, or coping with a mental illness?

Visual artists of all kinds are invited to create and/or share paintings, photographs, drawings, collages that explore the themes of homelessness, stigma reduction, and communicating hope through art.  Completed works, ready to be hung, will form the foundation of an exhibit that will be organically created during the HOPE in the ART evening.  Selected artists and their works will be invited to participate in a special Homelessness Awareness exhibition that will be part of the Healing Halls program at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.  The art on display as part of this program will be made available for purchase to the general public with 70 percent of the proceeds going to the artist and 30 percent going to the Northern Lights Health Foundation.

This is an event that will invite artists, media, dignitaries, students, and citizens to explore the nature of homelessness in a relaxed, welcoming, and creative environment.  We'll have free snacks and refreshments, live music, and plenty of spots to enjoy a conversation, draw a picture, write a poem, or just observe.

In addition to the four groups who are putting on this official kick-off to Homelessness Awareness Week, we have already had confirmation from a number of different organizations, including Boreal Artist Institute and NorthWord literary magazine, that they will be joining in, helping to facilitate an interactive, creative and unforgettable evening.  We invite you to join us. Just like the Grade 5 students at Westview School who have a deeper, more profound and meaningful sense of what people experienced going to residential schools, you have the opportunity to create a new understanding of people who are experiencing homelessness.

"Every person is a song,
every life, a masterpiece."

If you want to participate, just drop by.  If you want to display a work of art that might also be invited to be a part of the Homelessness Awareness exhibit at the hospital, give Barbara Rex (587-646-4904) or I (780-881-3752) a phone call, or drop it off at Keyano Art Gallery during the day on May 26th. HOPE in the ART will take place between 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm.


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