Creating space for Indigenous culture

Artwork in glass display case.
Display showcasing the artwork created by students from PETES.

The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous communities. Reconciliation starts with understanding and appreciating Indigenous histories and cultures. It's rooted not just in an awareness of the past, but also in the building of bridges for the future. One way to achieve this is through 2-way dialogue and project partnerships with Indigenous youth. Literally and figuratively, space must be created to encourage the next generation of Canadians to embrace traditional artistic expression.

A journey through Canada's rich Indigenous heritage for children at a school in Gatineau

Stephen Ball, teacher at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School (PETES) in Gatineau, created the PETES Art club to encourage a dialogue through artwork between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth at the school. He recently led a class of students aged 8 to 12 on a journey through Canada's rich Indigenous heritage by helping them produce a collection of artwork.

For Stephen, it was important to make this an opportunity for learning as well as artistic expression. “This project was a collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students focusing on Indigenous-style art,” he explains. “The Indigenous students took on a mentoring role and passed on some of their life experiences and traditions through the process of creating.”

The project was intended to promote community engagement in the National Capital Region, and to help the students learn about Indigenous art and culture and share what they've learned through their unique and varied pieces.

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), in collaboration with Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions (BGIS), was able to support this innovative approach to learning by providing space for a special exhibit at the C.D. Howe Building, at 240 Sparks Street in Ottawa. This central, accessible and public location in downtown Ottawa has the space needed, and the students in the PETES Art club are thrilled to have their work on display.

“I am very proud of their effort and what they produced and learned along the way. It was a fantastic project to be a part of,” adds Stephen.

A group of kids posing on sofa, wearing masks.
Art Club participants at PETES.
A smiling boy holding his carved bear.
One of the Inuit artists in the club, Qayaaq is from Igloolik, Nunavut, and is in Grade 4.
The bear carved by the boy in pervious photo in the display case.
Qayaaq's artwork on display at the C.D. Howe Building.
Posters describing the art project displayed on the front of the display case.
The pride in this project is apparent in the interpretive posters that appear in the display case.

By creating space for these young artists at the C.D. Howe Building, PSPC hopes that the people who see the artwork can understand how art can heal and create dialogue on our road toward reconciliation.

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