Thursday, August 16, 2012
Painted Turtle Arts Camp is a new collaborative arts-based project designed for young Aboriginal children in Ontario, from 4-12 years of age, that was introduced to five First Nations communities this summer by myself and funded by my grass roots charity, The Big Little Caravan of Joy. For the last seven years, most my efforts with The Big Little Caravan's work has taken place in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana. This was the first time that my work was implemented in Canada. It was a dream of mine to create a new forum and program to harness the creativity of the children who live on First Nations communities. The collaborative partnership with Right to Play not only was a match made in heaven but it also made this dream a successful reality.
The mandate of The Painted Turtle Arts Camp pilot project was to connect First Nations children through the natural language of play, creative arts and cooperative games. This arts-based experience acted as a springboard for the children to explore, experiment and acquire new information about the world and themselves. The Painted Turtle Arts Camp was made up of an arts based curriculum that included visual arts, dance, drama, music, martial arts and co-operative games, and was designed for children 4-12 years of age. The finale of our placement culminated on the last day and included a parade and musical variety show where the children shared their creations, dances and dramatizations with the community. The theme was always light-hearted and fun-filled. The children felt safe and happy so that they could celebrate the joy, spontaneity, and playful nature of just being a kid during the summer holidays!
This pilot project successfully demonstrated that Painted Turtle Arts Camp can:
• develop, support, encourage and expand the capacity for personal transformation for all children involved with the camp
• empower artists, educators and community mentors to positively create new ways of understanding and meaning in working together through the arts
• act as a model to create sustainable arts based programs for children with artists, educators and volunteers
After collaborating with Right to Play and five communities which included: Chippewas of the Thames, Wunnumin, Sachigo Lake, Cat Lake, and Whitefish River, I have concluded that the one thing that needs to be restored, especially for our children in Northern Communities, is the imaginative powers of the community at large. This world can be unlocked by the purity of heart and creativity which is naturally found in children.
Our most valuable capacity as facilitators and educators for children is to abandon preconceived judgements and open our minds and hearts to the power of imagination and transformation. As I began to a create a plan of action and implemented the creative curriculum this summer to almost two hundred children, I also started to uncover how this approach could allow each and every child an opportunity to explore and discover parts of themselves so that they could hold on to this notion of personal empowerment later on in life.
Our creative minds work like parachutes. They only operate and function when they are open. Painted Turtle Arts Camps supports and encourages this exact thing and opens the creative possibilities within a community by harnessing the joy of their own children through the exploration of the arts!
I am indebted to the efforts of Right to Play, the Community Mentors, The Band Offices, The Turtle Team and all my sponsors in making this journey a joyful and fruitful one.
One love and with profound gratitude,