An interdisciplinary arts program that co-inspires alternative spaces for creative learning by providing Indigenous students with opportunities and capacity to discover, build, and share their personal and collective voices through the arts.
First commissioned in 2015 by the Cree School Board, Mikw Chiyâm is creative learning through artist residencies in alternative spaces, informed by local knowledge and designed to engage and retain students.
Artists in the community
Indigenous communities invite artists from a roster of disciplines to teach transferable skills through the arts. During residencies, artists connect with Northern Cree youth and explore themes such as storytelling, expressing personal and collective voice, and navigating the art industry. Each participating school is paired with four experienced artists who work in collaboration with the Mikw Chiyâm teachers during six-week residencies. With inPath support, teachers and artists develop projects that meet the needs of youth while aligning with the Quebec Education Program, enabling students to receive credit towards graduation. Residencies culminate with students, artists, and teachers gathering to share artworks with the wider community during a festival to celebrate their commitment and accomplishments.
During the residency period, artists offer workshops for non-Mikw Chiyâm students and community members, providing space for broader artistic exploration and strengthening relationships between schools and communities.
Our “living” programs are dynamic and responsive to each school’s particular needs, shaped and reshaped according to feedback from students, teachers, artists, the wider community, and administration.
This project was a collaboration with the Cree Health Board Manuuhiikuu Department where students created a poster expressing personal messages around healthy life choices and mental health. This artwork was later used in a youth-driven suicide-prevention campaign, that was launched across the Cree Nation on National Mental Health Day on October 2017.
Credits: Juwanna Duff
Students worked with Shanna Strauss who taught them to make portraits on wood panels using techniques like photo transfer, wood burning, and painting. The students’ artwork responded to the question “What is my legacy?”. In this artwork, Jordan honors his grandfather Luke Diamond as someone who has created a legacy by sharing his traditional teachings. The seven geese represent his seven children and the snowshoes and trees connect to his passion for the land, creating snowshoes and being at his camp.
Credits: Jordan Gilpin
Towards the end of every school year, all students complete an Independent Project where they continue developing an idea or a skill that sparked their interest during the year. Kim had learned to use iMovie and took this one step further learning to edit on Final Cut Pro. This video takes an introspective look into her life and her future. This is one of the first videos that she created as a student in 2015-16. Today, Kim is completing a Broadcasting–Television Program at Algonquin College.
Credits: Kim Wapachee-McDougall
For this project, students reflected upon positive body image by creating a short animation that answers the guiding question What does it mean to have a good body? They showed a high level of engagement as they explored new drawing tools, including lightboxes for drawing. This compilation is a selection of finished animations by Cycle 2 students at Voyageur Memorial High School.
Credits: Abigail Loon, Haleigh Trapper, Jared Linton, Paige Commando, Ywaaustin Coon