Works of art are often able to draw people together and show their connections. Ojibwe artist Jessica Canard thought up the design for her recent mural with this goal in mind.
Commissioned by the National Arts Centre in partnership with the University of Winnipeg, Canard combined her years of experience making murals and facilitating art workshops for her recent piece, Connecting Communities.
“It’s a simple yet meaningful piece,” she says, “because it brought together so many people from different social circles and stages of life for the sole purpose of celebrating the resilience in all of us.”
Canard went beyond the idea of a work of art bringing people together by seeing it—she wanted to involve them directly in its creation. In order to have the community involved in the physical creation of the work, Canard chose to use stamps, which are accessible for all ages, people with limited mobility, and even for those who think they have no artistic ability.
“There was a lot of laughing happening, people sharing stories and kids making butt loads of cards,” she says. “Some people were hesitant to participate because they said they’re not artistic, but once shown the steps, they got into it.”
Canard hand-carved the stamps and hosted three events for people to join in the creation. More than 250 participated, ranging from three years old to senior citizens. The community-created pieces will be featured in her completed mural.
In addition to bringing the community together to create, Canard is excited for what it will mean to have her piece in a public space.
“As a First Nations person I don’t see much that I can relate to in these public spaces,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that what was created came from a place of love and shows the true values of what my culture is about.”
For her stamps, Canard selected the Seven Sacred Teachings animals—significant to Treaty 1 territory—as well as some images representing plant medicine. Those who participated in the art piece were given handbills with information about the Seven Sacred Teachings, which Canard was taught to live by as a child. They are: love (the eagle), truth (the turtle), respect (the buffalo), honesty (the sasquatch), humility (the wolf), courage (the bear), and wisdom (the beaver).
Connecting Communities will be permanently installed on the University of Winnipeg campus in the spring of 2018. “It really does take a community to make big things like this happen,” Canard says.