By Jasnit Pabla
Agnes partners with Four Directions to deliver cultural programming for Indigenous youth
This year, the Agnes has formally opened its doors to Indigenous youth interested in understanding their culture through art.
In partnership with the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, the Agnes is hosting art workshops for the remainder of the academic term. The program is designed to facilitate cultural learning and create a safe space for Indigenous youth to gather after school in a program titled ‘Storying Resilience.’
A key part of this program explores Kent Monkman’s exhibit Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience and its take on colonialism.
Monkman’s exhibit retells the story of Canadian history through an Indigenous lens. Magazenni explained the program was a response to the popular exhibition now on display at the Agnes.
“We wanted to think about the Kent Monkman exhibition in critical and thoughtful ways and build a better partnership with Four Directions,” Carina Magazzeni told The Journal in an interview. “It just so happened that Four Directions, as part of their Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program, were looking for more art related things.”
The Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre has served as a resource for Indigenous students on campus since 1996, providing cultural programming and a safe and inclusive space for students.
Coordinated by Elias George at the University, The Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program similarly seeks to bring together Aboriginal youth from the Kingston community in a “mentor program focused on building leadership skills and increasing academic and cultural enrichment opportunities,” according to the program website.
‘Storying Resilience’ takes place over the course of four Thursdays, Jan. 25, Feb. 8, Mar. 8 and Apr. 12, in the André Biélér Studio of the Agnes. It also includes poetry writing, visual storytelling, etching and painting with instruction from French-Ojibwe painter Onangattay and graduate students at the University, Geraldine King and Camille Usher.
“Four Directions and the Agnes are community spaces so we wanted to extend these spaces that are on … campus” Magazzeni added. “That was part of Elias’ goal too in making Indigenous youth comfortable in post-secondary spaces.”
Curator of Contemporary Art Sunny Kerr told The Journal he hopes to see two primary objectives accomplished through the program. “I would like to see more involvement and sense of ownership from Indigenous youth and the Indigenous community within the Agnes,” he said.
For both Kerr and Magazzeni, aside from increased engagement, it’s also important for this to be a resource for Indigenous youth. “Figuring out different ways to use the space to support Indigenous artists and create art making resources for Indigenous youth in the area,” Magazzeni said. “We want to think about skills that can be used within this program and beyond.”
George reiterated that the program serves several functions. Aside from providing a creative outlet and a safe space for cultural learning, the program provides youth with another indispensable resource: mentors.
With Indigenous instructors and students teaching youth, mentorship will be an important product of the program — one that Elias aligns with the mandate of the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program.
“The hope of the partnership is to expose the youth to different forms of art and spark their creative imagination,” George told The Journal in an email. “Exposure to the university campus and working alongside mentors who attend post-secondary education gives the youth a chance to have role models that can help to show the youth what it is like to attend continuing education.”
The program sessions are free and have been marketed primarily to students from the Katarokwi Learning Centre in grades 8-12. Funding was provided by a grant from the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area with assisted resourcing from the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.
“The youth are really excited about the showcase at the end of the program at the main school the students are from,” Magazzeni said. “They’re excited to show off the art they’ve been making.”