Mi'kmaw artist raises nearly $10K to bring art program to Shubenacadie classrooms

Mi'kmaw artist raises nearly $10K to bring art program to Shubenacadie classrooms

A Mi'kmaw artist from Sipekne'katik First Nation has raised nearly $10,000 to purchase art supplies that will eventually be used in classrooms around the province — all in an effort to teach children about art and the meaning it can have.

Quentin Syliboy was asked to volunteer his time and expertise at the Shubenacadie District Elementary School — where he attended as a boy — after staff purchased one of his paintings to put on display in the school's entrance.

Syliboy had been invited to the school to talk about his painting when he was also asked to come back and teach the students some art techniques.

"I've always enjoyed working with kids and it's kind of self-serving in the same aspect because it reminds me of why I have fun painting — watching them create … whatever their little minds think of," Syliboy told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Friday.

Colleen Jones/CBC
Colleen Jones/CBC

As soon as he was asked to return, Syliboy started raising money for art supplies.

He said he turned to local businesses for financial support and after nearly 50 rejections, he took to social media and quickly raised $7,000.

He said after that, members of Sipekne'katik First Nation donated an additional $1,800.

"It made me feel definitely proud of my community," he said.

Syliboy held his first painting session at the Shubenacadie school on Friday. Over the next few weeks, he'll be helping 219 students find their inner artists.

"He's put together a program that brings Indigenous art into our school and we are just thrilled for the learning opportunity," Jen Clark, the school's principal, said Friday.

Clark said she's also grateful Syliboy took it upon himself to raise funds for the program.

"It was absolutely incredible for him to take his personal time to get out there and be seeking donations and I think he raffled off a painting," she said. "[We're] just incredibly grateful that he donated his time and effort."

Emma Smith/CBC
Emma Smith/CBC

Syliboy said he wanted to contribute his time as a way to give back to the community.

"Growing up, I never had any cultural influences or anything like that or outlets for expression and this is a way for them to get that at a young age, which I wish I had," he said.

Syilboy said the purpose of the workshop is to give kids the opportunity to have fun, try something new and be vulnerable.

"A lot of times kids are so structured in their lives. They're told what to do from the second they get up to the second they go to bed," he said.

"So to give them just that little bit of freedom and watch them run with it, and watch them flourish, is something that truly is inspiring and needed by them."

Emma Smith/CBC
Emma Smith/CBC

Syliboy said he's received more donations from the Indian Brook band, the Kiwanis Club and the provincial SchoolsPlus program since starting the program, for a total of nearly $10,000 in funds raised. It means he can expand elsewhere in the province.

He said the program will also be taught at the L'nu Sipuk Kina'muokuom School, which is on the reserve, and schools within the East Hants, West Hants and Colchester education centres.

"It's definitely something I love. I especially love going around and talking to them each … to hear them talk about their paintings or get so emotionally invested in what they're doing, really reminds me of why I paint."