Winnipeg, Canada reflections
Star weaving with James Favel, Director Bear Clan Patrol. North Winnipeg Canada.
Our time in Winnipeg is difficult to put into words. We heard happy, painful and moving stories about people finding purpose in looking after others, giving young people second chances and using the arts to reach people with mental health needs. Winnipeg is a small town, compared to Vancouver and Toronto. However, it has a vibrant art and craft community who pride themselves in being a supportive network. We had the incredible privilege of weaving stars with James Favel from the Bear Clan Patrol, ArtBeat Studio with Nigel and Katryna, Plug In ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) with Sarah Nesbitt, Art City Youth Arts and Jessica Hodgson from Manitoba Craft Council. We also got to meet Chandra Erlendson from the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and share with her the One Million Stars project.
When I researched organisations working to end violence in Canada, I came across the Bear Clan Patrol which was re-activated after a young woman named Tina Fontaine was raped and murdered in Winnipeg. The Bear Clan Patrol, who took the safety of their community into their own hands, was first on my dream list of people to meet and learn from so when I made contact with James, I couldn’t believe it and was so excited! It was an emotional and enlightening few hours spent with James. First we taught James how to weave a star and we learnt more about what they do, which ranges from supplying food to sanitary goods, depending on what the local community asks. Like many organisations, they have limited resources and funding and they rely heavily on volunteers to help patrol their streets. The patrol is made up of men, women, young people, older people and they are culturally diverse, which is so inspiring. You can see pics and more of what they do on their facebook page.
Walking though Winnipeg where the Bear Clan Patrol.
Artwork by a local artist. 'Stop the violence' sign in the window.
After, James took us for a walk through the neighbourhood, pointing out areas that were high-danger spots. We also bumped into locals (felt like we were walking with a celebrity because James knew everyone!), learnt about a ‘weed’ that the Native people’s use for medicine and we dropped into a centre where the clan has regular meetings to discuss news and strategies. It was a lot to take in, and while we knew that we stood in places where drug, sexual and physical violence occurs, we felt incredibly safe being with James. We got to see spaces and hear stories that can’t be shared to protect individuals so we feel very privileged. We got permission to take some photos, including James being filmed by CBC News and at the end of it, we were gifted Bear Clan Patrol tees and beaded earrings. I kept thinking of our daughter, Tavina, and how huge this experience would’ve been for her. I looked over to her often, wanting to make sure she was ok taking this all in. Short story is, what we loved is that even though we felt so far away from home, as soon as we started exchanging stories with James about what the challenges and hopes for our communities are, we felt like we came from the same place. It was extraordinary! We are so different culturally, linguistically, geographically and still, we have the same dreams and courage for our people.
Missing, Christina Wood. One of many Indigenous women who go missing. Boys go missing as well. A national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women was launched in Canada while we were there.
The next community we met with was ArtBeat, which is situated in a housing complex. They run free art programs for locals with mental health issues and needs. The focus is the process and not the outcome or ‘object’ of making art. Initially I was meant to meet with Nigel and Katryna and just have a chat about the project and how they could get involved, but they were so moved that they asked me to come out and tell who ever was there. So I got to speak on the stage that is reserved for a band to play while participants paint, draw or print and we got to weave another 10 stars! Meeting face to face is so important, when wanting to engage communities.
ArtBeat, with program coordinators Nigel and Katryna on my right. Supporting and connecting with people with mental health needs using art.
ArtBeat is an example of how, often, it’s difficult to express what the OMS project is about in an email. OMS is so layered and full of different meanings for communities that it often relies on me talking to people first hand and sharing stories of what it’s doing for people around the world. It can be exhausting sharing the story because it’s so personal and full of emotion. But, what drives me is the growing passion and the stories of people’s goodness, healing and courage to do more to end all violence for themselves and their communities.
Plug In, ICA Institute of Contemporary Art. Being filmed by CBC News.
Plug In, ICA
At Plug In, ICA we got to star weave with a big group of people passionate about craft and the issue of ending violence. It was fantastic being filmed by CBC News and again, wonderful to make connections with different people working with youth, Indigenous communities, women and mental health groups. It was nice to end the night with a bit of fun, rolling on a chair with stars in my hands, in the fabulous space of Plug In. Huge shout out to Sarah Nesbitt for making this workshop a success.
Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Sometimes it wasn’t possible to run a workshop for various reasons, but it was great that many were willing to meet with me to have a yarn about possibilities. It was wonderful to meet with Chandra Erlendson, Manager of Education and Public Programs at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. It was enough to sew the seed for future opportunities and to learn about upcoming events. It was extraordinary to be in a space with so many global stories of people making significant contributions to the wellbeing of the earth and people around the world. Highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Winnipeg!
With Eddie Ayoub, Director of Art City. Exchanging gifts of a woven star and a hand made ceramic bowl.
Art City, a space for young people, was the last workshop we ran in Winnipeg. Kids always surprise me with their energy and enthusiasm for the project. It’s not for everyone, but I got to meet some kids who usually have very little attention but are brilliant when given some time and space to weave a star. I got to weave a large star out a blue metallic ribbon, which was pinned to the wall above their house rules and guidelines.
Lots of special memories and great friendships forged in Winnipeg. I’m already looking forward to going back!
need to work together in lots of different ways to achieve peace and safety for everyone.