First dreams

Bryhanna Greenough mushes to the Newfoundland and Labrador Aboriginal Youth Arts Gathering.

If you could do one thing you’d always dreamed of doing, what would it be?

When St. John’s was being considered for the Cultural Capital of Canada recognition, a city wish fairy (not to be confused with the more sinister parking ticket variety) approached Lori LeDrew of the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre with this very question. This was the first step toward the province’s first ever Aboriginal Youth Arts Gathering.

Earlier this year, Lori LeDrew and Chris Dwyer traveled around Labrador, meeting young people in schools and community centers in communities like Forteau, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Hopedale, Makkovik, Nain, Natuashish, Postville, Rigolet, Sheshatshiu and St. Lewis. From Newfoundland, submissions rolled in from Conne River, Stephenville and St. John’s. The message to the kids was simple: submit your artwork and you could be rewarded with a trip to St. John’s and a chance to show off your work at an art exhibit.

Lori and Chris met with an enthusiastic response. Now 35 talented Inuit, Innu, Mi’Kmaq and Metis youth ranging in age from 13 to 27 are making their way to St. John’s to exhibit their work while learning new crafting techniques and tricks of the art business trade.

So what do they make? LeDrew said most of the submissions took the form of drawings and paintings, something she found surprising since aboriginal art usually tends more towards handicraft.  She believes many of the art pieces are less traditional than what would be produced by senior artists from these same regions. For example, at least two of the artists use a camera as their instrument of expression. In the youngest artists’ work you can see the universal influence of television as popular cartoon characters fill in for the mythic figures of previous generations.

That being said, plenty of pieces are inspired by the traditional life of these northern people. Grasswork weaving, carvings set in serpentine (a type of stone which is challenging to work with due to its hardness) and a wooden seal hunter will be showcased. Leather is worked into a pair of baby mukluks, a medicine bag and parka dolls. And yet again even traditional techniques and materials give way to contemporary life: leather credit card holders. Poets and musicians will also be presenting their arts at this one-of-a-kind exhibition.

Some of the art will be for sale, although a handful of the young artists don’t wish to part with their creations, thank you very much.

The first ever Aboriginal Youth Arts Exhibit will take place Thurs (6-9pm), Fri (12-9pm) and Saturday (10-6pm) at the Fairmont Hotel. FREE