Every child matters and so does their art. Art from the Heart, an annual art exhibition traditionally held at Pynelogs Cultural Centre is doing things a little differently this year. Students will give and show their gratitude and respect for local Indigenous communities by making clay tiles. Instead of showcasing their creations at Pynelogs itself, they will be able to be viewed at the schools until June 30 and virtually throughout the summer.
Now the fun begins, where students get to paint and display them. This year, the display will be available for those to enjoy at the elementary and primary schools in the Windermere zone until the end of the term, as well as virtually on their website for the next couple of months.
“This year it is an online event with individual shows at the schools in each community along with a mini ‘satellite show’ at the CV Centre at the end of June,” says Cajsa Fredin Columbia Valley Arts (CVA) Executive Director.
“Typically, it is held in Pynelogs, which we are excited to bring back next year. This year’s format is a bit different due to COVID and the adaptations we had to make in the planning. Columbia Valley Arts created 800 clay art kits that are based around imagery of the local First Nations and Métis facilitating a larger conversation with the kids led by Jenna Jasek that centres on community love, reconciliation and integration of local First Nations and Métis cultural themes, and content.”
Local teachers integrate Art from the Heart into their curriculum every year, contributing to the program becoming a staple within the community.
“After the 215 unmarked graves were discovered last year, people awakened. Communities and schools want to support Indigenous people, but they are often unsure what they can do. The most important step in Truth and Reconciliation is to honour local Indigenous communities,” says Jenna Jasek.
Jasek is the current District Vice Principal of Indigenous Learning and Equity for Rocky Mountain School District No. 6. Proud and blessed to be both Secwepemc, and Ktunaxa, Jasek has first-hand experience of what her people have endured.
“We are all survivors of intergenerational trauma. If you investigate our past, there have been immense, unthinkable challenges put upon our communities and ancestors, yet we have not given up despite this. People need to acknowledge the truth of how Indigenous people have suffered yet are brave, powerful people, says Jasek. “This art show is a gift to our local Indigenous communities. Reciprocity is an important part of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. I thought how beautiful it would be to have students create art for our local Indigenous communities as an offering of gratitude, love, and respect.”
Jasek has been involved with Art from the Heart as a classroom teacher since the initiative’s start, which first began as a volunteer program 17 years ago. Art from the Heart 2022 — Giving Thanks allowed both students and teachers to learn about the Secwepemc, Ktunaxa and the Metis people of B.C. and a symbol of their cultures. This year students learned how salmon is an important part of the Secwepemc people, while the Ktunaxa people have deep roots and resonate with the grizzly bear, while the Metis create beautiful dot paintings.
“I want students to learn the gifts, knowledge, and perspectives of our local Indigenous people,” says Jasek. “I want students to understand how important Indigenous people are to change our world back to honouring the land, the animals, the plants and everything living in our local area. I want students to learn the lessons nature has to give. How immersing yourself in nature and honouring our mother earth through reciprocity and thanks will heal the world and the people.”
All 800 kits distributed were provided with instructions, materials, and support in video format so that teachers had the resources and confidence to execute this project, with CVA also available to assist.
“Using clay was a fun experience for the kids as that might not be typically something they get to do a lot in school, and we were excited to center the project around such localized content that enhanced our connections and awareness through such a creative show of community love,” says Fredin.
“There is so much learning and unlearning that needs to happen on a local level that resonates out to the greater world, and the heart of our communities. This starts with the kids that we raise here. Enabling them to find their strength and voice through art is just the start of a journey that we continue to support our community’s larger embrace of history and recognize its importance as we move into the future with awareness and love.”
For more information visit www.columbiavalleyarts.com.
Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer