Mall of the Arts teaching traditional skills online to boost mental health

·3 min read

People living in the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) region can look forward to two online workshops on March 27 and April 3.

These workshops were organized in partnership with the Mall of the Arts to help MKO citizens better their mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of the MKO communities are still in lockdown and some of them are stressed because they are not able to see their family members,” said Andria Stephens, the Co-Founder of the Mall of the Arts on Wednesday.

“We are all social beings so these workshops, even though they are about an hour-long, could take their mind away from the fact they are alone. Seeing the faces of people in your community who you love and respect doing the same thing as you, can improve self-confidence and lift their spirits.”

The workshop on March 27 is the birch bark biting workshop by Pat Bruderer, who has practised the art for nearly 30 years.

Those who join the event can create a birch bark design during the workshop or follow the design provided by Bruderer herself.

Bruderer has mailed three birch barks that she harvested, two birch bark template designs and a piece of paper to all of the participant’s home address.

“I usually do Zoom classes for schools and children but I wanted to reach out to the First Nation communities in particular because I think it is very important to keep our tradition alive,” said Bruderer.

While the registry for this workshop is now closed, interested individuals can sign up to be put on a waitlist when this workshop is offered again in the future.

On April 3, MKO citizens can enjoy the Indigenous beading workshop by Robyn Schlachetka, who learned bead craft as an early teenager from her aunt.

During the workshop, attendees will learn basic Indigenous beadings skills and even get to make key chains using beads, thread, beading needles, leather and pelt.

Beading supplies will be provided as part of this workshop, but participants need to sign up by March 29 to have supplies delivered to them.

“A lot of Indigenous people lost their culture, and I feel like Indigenous art is a big part of that. Many Indigenous people now are self-taught as traditions are not being passed down. I think it is important to pick up that skillset,” said Schlachetka.

“I hope this workshop can bring more interest to people on Indigenous beading, and that I can inspire more people to get out there and do more work like this.”

She added the key chains made by the participants can be given as gifts to other family members if they wish.

Schlachetka is also working with the Mall of the Arts to create a mukluks-making workshop for Thompson citizens. The beading workshop would lead to a moccasins workshop so participants would be able to improve on their skills.

Both workshops are free and will take place on Zoom at 6 pm. Participants can register for the beading workshop at

— Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun