Wahkotowin gallery about raising up voices of city’s youth
A new walking art gallery installed at the South Hill Mall is celebrating the work of students.
The gallery launched last weekend with the work of three Carlton students, all part of the Carlton Collection Builders Program at the school.
Teacher Melanie Mirasty says there are three walking galleries, which will showcase new art from students across the city each month.
The first three collections were painted by Jaylee Kachor-Engen, Oceanna Fisher-James and Tynisha McKay.
Kachor-Engen’s work depicts medicine wheels from across North America that are slowly eroding.
“As she captured these medicine wheels, she was also unearthing her own Metis ancestry and getting like her Metis card,” Mirasty said.
“It was wonderful to see her mom get involved and her grandma.”
Fisher-James’ work, which debuted earlier this year at Carlton, honours important figures in Black history.
McKay’s bubbles, Elder Liz Settee said, some were conjoined, and while they looked similar, were all different. To her, it highlighted the importance of celebrating everyone’s differences.
Like Kachor-Engen, each of the other artists had help from loved ones, friends and family members. It’s fitting then, that the gallery itself celebrates relationships between each other.
“We have this beautiful gallery that we named Wahkohtowin, which means relationship and kinship in Cree,” Mirasty said. “To get these collections off the ground, you need a ton of support and I love being the mentor and also seeing (the support).”
The three student exhibitions unveiled last weekend are just the start. Mirasty and the South Hill Mall have visions of creating a year-round walk through space where young voices can be seen and celebrated.
“It’s not just Carlton students, it’s also going to be extended to elementary schools in our city. And we hope to kind of even extend it beyond that to, to kind of make it a certainly a community gallery that we can see a lot of diversity and see some youth be empowered with their art”
The weekend’s opening was attended by the Mayor and by Settee, who blessed the galleries with a smudge and a prayer.
Settee, who has long been involved with education in Prince Albert and the Heart of Youth Powwow, told the Herald she was encouraged by seeing such thoughtful work by young artists on the walls.
“It was just such a feeling of pride, seeing their passion,” Settee said. “Student’s work is actually being recognized now. Instead of staying inside the classroom or the school, now we have the community involved to celebrate their talents.” The gallery came together with the support of the South Hill Mall, Wes Erlendson of Safeway and the Prince Albert Kinsmen Club.
“It’s important for me to get out and celebrate the successes of our youth,” Settee said.
“To me, this is a huge success for them, that the community can see our young people now and we get the pleasure of watching them grow.”
Erlendson had similar thoughts.
“I think the youth play a huge part in our future and need to be encouraged and supported as they develop and expand their skills, whether that’s academically in the classroom or as a musician or an artist,” he said. “You have to be encouraged to move your abilities forward and use them to their max potential.”
With the community support, Mirasty said, they were able to buy high quality art supplies. Now, the Carlton students are filming videos so that kids at other schools can learn to create collections of their own. “Youth can be empowered. We can see that their voices are strong, and that they have strong messages,” Mirasty said.
“We just need to continue to listen and to continue to just lift them up. And when we do that, I really feel all the time that magical things happen.
Carlton student creates murals for Safeway
The same day the student art gallery was unveiled, Erlendson, Mirasty and student Emily Hill unveiled the first of four murals painted by Mill to be installed at Safeway.
Hill, who recently had a solo exhibition at the Grace Campbell Gallery inside the Prince Albert Public Library’s downtown branch, painted Little Red River Park in four seasons.
“The main goal of this whole collection is for people to see the beauties of Prince Albert because some people forget how pretty our city is,” she said when she opened her library show in February. “I painted these paintings for everybody to start to look at Prince Albert in a better view.”
“She’s very proud of Prince Albert,” Mirasty said of Hill. “Watching her paint as an artist – it was just incredible. It’s almost like you’re watching somebody who’s been painting for decades, but yet she’s so young.”
Like her fellow Carlton students, Hill had support from her family. Her parents cleared out the garage to give her studio space to paint for six weeks.
Like Mirasty, Erlendson is impressed with the result.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to support the youth in the community. I thought it would add value to the customer experience in my store,” he said.“I think she did a beautiful job. She’s a very talented young artist.”