Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A SPECTACULAR Painted Turtle Summer!

This summer  the Painted Turtle Arts Camp, an arts integrated educational and cultural program designed for the First Nations children of Ontario and Manitoba, provided a rich and imaginative opportunity for hundreds of happy children. Young participants had the chance to explore and develop their physical, emotional and cognitive capacities while experiencing joyful expression through the creative arts.

Participating in a non-competitive environment where the elements of fun, joy and togetherness were the driving force of this summer program, 480 children from 12 communities had the opportunity to experience drama, dance, visual arts and music activities while being in a summer camp environment. 

Cooperative games, dynamic choreography, visual arts projects, a community performance and a variety of songs generated a sense of unity, while at the same time focused on building the child’s creative vocabulary in all of these art forms.

Facilitated by 3 Painted Turtle teams this summer: (Bailey Davis and Damarise Ste. Marie, Sarina Condello and Rivers Wahl and then once again Sarina Condello and Bailey Davis) each group worked hand in hand with Right to Play and 14 community mentors to provide the most efficient and impactful program. Thousands of kilometers were driven across Ontario and Manitoba and many planes were taken to get up to more remote and Northern Communities so that children could participate in a camp that encouraged collaboration, confidence, community and creativity.

The Numbers

12 First Nations Communities
12 Community Mentors
3 Painted Turtle Teams
480 Children

The Communities

Duck Bay (July 6 - 8)
Sheguiandah First Nation (July 7 - 9)
 Grassy Narrows (July 9 - 12)
Mississaugi First Nation (July 13-16)
Community Report—Eagle Lake (July 13- 15)
Pic Mobert First Nation (July 17-19)
Community Report—White Dog (July 15- 18)
Ginoogaming First Nation (July 21-23)
Cat Lake (July 20 -24)
North Caribou (July 26-29 )
Moosonee, (August 6 - 8)
Chippewas of the Thames (August 12-15 )

The Community Mentors

 Cynthia Genaille, Lindsay Campbell, Aaron Bowerman, Crystal Swain, Robert Lagace, Kelly Derosier, Thurston Kwissiwa, Judy Fobister, Erin Gagnon, Joyce Peters, Gen Beardy, Candice Klingenberg, Wyatt Kechego

103 Children surveyed “ What I liked about Painted Turtle was the...”

Free Play
Playing games
All the program
The big show
Making lanterns
Creativity Challenges

98 % of all children want PTAC to return to their communities!

Community Mentor Feedback: “ What would you like to tell us?”

We would love for you stay longer!
The youth are willing to do more than I thought!
The program was artsy, uplifting, gave new perspectives.
The program was nurturing, inspiring and positive!
You got everybody involved. 
To see our youth engaged, participating is powerful.
Your passion for your project rubbed off on us!
Your program was great and well structured! 
I love this program; it works!
The visual arts program allowed youth engage in unseen skills.
Your program was awesome, inspiring, and phenomenal!
I just can’t wait until next year!
An awesome summer program.

“How can we improve our program?”

I would set up this program during community days and our Pow Wow.
If I had more information ahead of time I could have prepared better.
I did not know what to expect.
We need to get waiver forms that are clear.

Objectives and Suggestions for 2016

As we traveled through each community it became quite clear that a 5 day placement would be more effective than a 3 day one. Below are suggestions for next year provided by PTAC Facilitators and Community Mentors.

  • 12-16 communities in 2016 with 3 PTAC teams in place in Ontario
  • 3 communities with 1 PTAC team in British Columbia
  • 2 communities with 1 PTAC team in Manitoba
  • Waiver and Registration forms re-designed
  • Training session for PTAC facilitators - 3 days of arts based curriculum
  • Each PTAC team will have 2 facilitators
  • PTAC signage for each camp
  • Shipment of costumes to each community
  • Increase drive in communities; much more cost effective
  • Create a director role during the summer
  • Ambulance course for main Art Educators

And finally it is of utmost importance to remember the benefits of bringing an arts based program into these communities. Without the philosophical scaffolding of understanding why we do what we do, our program design will fall short in reaching the needs of these children.

Benefits of an Arts Based Program

  • Children learn to problem solve in a creative way
  • Children learn the skill of observing and interpreting through art
  • Children learn to express without conversation or words
  • Children learn that that there are many ways to explore a point of view 
  • Children collaborate with others; adults and children alike
  • Children observe and experience music and art from around the world
  • Children experience progress at something/arts build confidence. 
  • Arts build community
Much thanks and gratitude goes out to all of our donors, Bedford Park, Summerhill and Riverdale Players, Right to Play, the fabulous team of Community Mentors, the PTAC team, and to the 420 beautiful children we met and created with along the way!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Training Session with Right to Play and 30 First Nations' Community Mentors

On January 26 and 27, 2015 Bailey Davis and myself took part of a winter training for 30 First Nations community mentors at the Tim Horton Memorial Camp in collaboration with Right to Play.

The training objectives were the following:

  • To integrate Painted Turtle Arts Camp material and content resources with Right to Play’s Winter Training
  • To enhance Painted Turtle Arts Camp mission and support with on going programming for future arts initiatives in Northern communities
  • To recruit new First Nations communities who will lead their very own Painted Turtle Arts Camps for the summer of 2015
  • To broaden Painted Turtle Arts Camp visibility in the communities and presence through the extension of our existing relationship with Right to Play
  • To enhance program results through on going training sessions so that Painted Turtle Arts Camps will continue to develop an enriched curriculum foundation and train successful arts camp leaders
  • To demonstrate the effectiveness of Painted Turtle Arts Camp programming to First Nations Community Mentors and Right to Play staff and donors
  • To provide community leaders with new and fresh ideas in the arts that can be immediately implemented into their communities

The overall Painted Turtle Arts Camp winter training was a great success. Our sessions were most popular and the feedback was very positive. One of our biggest and most popular session was So You Think You Can Dance activity. This dance session demonstrated 8 social dance activities that could be immediately implemented into intergenerational events and socials. The participation was at 100% and all that were present danced with joy, laughter and connecting to one another!  It was a great kick off to the week. This workshop gave community leaders a myriad of ideas on ways to break up their social events with intergenerational dance activities. Sarina Condello and Bailey Davis provided all Community Mentors present with fun filled performing dance exercises that can be used for a variety of purposes including: warm ups, closures, team building activities and ways to enhance community involvement.

The intention was to not only provide facilitators with fresh new ideas but to also encourage past and new communities to run their own Painted Turtle Arts Camp for this summer. These collaborative sessions are crucial to the ongoing positive relationships with not only Right to Play but also the Community Mentors. The spirit, inclusivity and efforts that Right to Play has put forth in including Painted Turtle Arts Camp programming in their mandate has been nothing short of inspirational. A highlight for us both was to be in the company of Canadian's own Clara Hughes! Hughes is also the only Canadian to have won medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Her opening speech to all the delegates was nothing short of inspirational!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Big Little Caravan of Joy Visits Burkina Faso 2014!

This fall SEMAFO Foundation invited the Big Little Caravan of Joy back to visit their rural communities in Burkina Faso. Once again, we had the privilege of implementing  our highly dynamic arts based program for over 1640 children. Our last visit, back in 2012, was such a tremendous success that the children and artists asked monthly for our return! What a joy it was to finally go back to the communities a second time, so that we could reunite with our cherished team, friends and the beautiful children.

Our vision was simple. We wanted to deliver and share, with the children from these small rural communities, the rapturous joy, inherent intelligence and healing power of the arts. For many children, the exploration of the arts was a place where they felt safe and off the hook for a moment, from being caregivers and laborers in their communities. From the child’s perspective, this arts based program was not only a simple solution in creating a safe platform to express and explore their individuality, but it was also a place where they had the chance to celebrate their childhood in the spirit of creativity and play. 

Creative problem solving was yet another aspect to our program while implementing our arts based curriculum. We as facilitators see the arts as a place where children have the chance to constantly grapple with solving problem skills. These challenges unfold naturally in the process of art making.This in fact, lays down the groundwork for the acquisition of new found knowledge. Our methodology this time around included cooperative games, dances from around the world, song and chants, a theatre performance by the children, drama games and a handful of fabulous visual arts projects too!

 A big bouquet of gratitude goes out to all of our supporters who made this venture possible. Thank you to Chantal Guerin at SEMAFO Foundation for believing in the program. Our  Team Joy Burkina Faso was on fire and without their expertise and the guidance, love, energy and devotion of Damarise Ste. Marie and Bailey Davis this project would not have been possible!


August 27-29 - COMMUNITY: Dangouna -  275
August 31-September 2-COMMUNITY:  Wona A- 400
September 3-5- COMMUNITY: Wona B - 325
September 7-9- COMMUNITY: Bana A - 200
September 10-12- COMMUNITY: Bana B - 240
September 13-15-COMMUNITY: Bissa - 115
September 16-18- COMMUNITY: Somana - 85

TOTAL 1640 children

Each community listed above has now received 15-17 hours of arts based programming. 
A community show for each school was also included. Each community did 3-7 art projects. Curriculum was translated from French to Local languages by the team. Drama, dance, art and songs were focused and taught for approximately one hour for each subject. Cooperative games took up the other hour.

The Burkina Faso Team: Sarina Condello, Bailey Davis, Damarise Ste. Marie, Dao La Sunni, Amada, Aruna, Musa, Aruna (petite), Modu, Ibrihim, Amidou, Dao Yacuba, Konete Sema, Unosa and Boubacar.

Painted Turtle in 7 First Nation Communities!

The Painted Turtle Arts Camp is a program that is specifically designed for First Nations children and youth of Northern Ontario. The objectives of The Painted Turtle Arts Camp are:

  • To nurture every child’s creative spirit through creative expression and play
  • To build a cohesive sense of community through educating artists, teachers, summer staff and community leaders on ways to integrate the arts through performance celebrations and art based experiences for summer camp
  •  To offer opportunity for youth to be leaders in an arts based environment and enhance   their knowledge and interest in arts based activities

Since 2012, nineteen PTAC(s) have been implemented in seventeen Northern communities. Hundreds upon hundreds of First Nations children have had the opportunity to create and ignite their imaginations through the expressive joy of song, dance, theatre and visual arts. Every year, PLAY partner communities are invited to submit applications to host a Painted Turtle Arts Camp. The completion of an application allows for a process for the community to identify the need and interest for arts based programs as well as identifying resources and support to host the program. It has been an absolute honour and privilege, for the third season consecutively, to have collaborated with Right to Play with the implementation of the summer arts based program-- Painted Turtle Arts Camps (PTAC) throughout Northern Ontario. 

This year was a very special one at that, for the evolution of the PTAC grew considerably and developed into a sustainable and capacity building venture by training leaders to independently and successfully run their own camps for their communities. The year, the PTAC specialized arts activities, usually designed for a week’s long program, were developed and expanded into a five to six weeks curriculum. By teaming up with Right to Play and piggy backing with their Summer Sun Training Session, that was held in Thunder Bay in early June, PTAC had the opportunity to make this new training model possible. 

With 8 community mentors present to train specifically with the Painted Turtle Arts Camp methods, this new model, gave community leaders basic instruction in facilitating the arts-- dance, visual arts, music, drama. The training also provided a methodology on how to manage their PTAC throughout the summer months. Each Community Mentor present also received an art kit that would last throughout the summer and included art supplies for 30 - 80 children, 2 training manuals (one for managing a camp, and one with art based activities) and a USB stick with lots of high energy fun music and two videos of our selected choreographed dances. 

Next year our Painted Turtle vision is a grande one at that! The big dream is to have 15 Northern communities run their very own Painted Turtle camps for the summer of 2015. Our vision for the training session for next year, is to create a more detailed manual and training methodology that will instill enriched arts based activities for all the facilitators involved with PTAC.


 Many thanks go out to Jules Porter who has consistently supported the PTAC’s programming for the Northern communities of Ontario and who helped us develop this new sustainable model. Gratitude would not be complete without acknowledging Nicky Potter’s guiding force. Her dedicated efforts, by supporting, guiding and making sure that all our ducks were in a row for this year’s tour, made the success of this program attainable. Gratitude abound and a huge thank you to all the Community Mentors, Community Officers, Painted Turtle Staff and the hundreds of children who created art with their little hands, sang with gusto and danced to their hearts delight! Our program would not be possible without the committed efforts of Bailey Davis who has tirelessly given up her summers for the betterment of this program and with Rose Lipton and Chris McLeod’s encouragement and assistance with all the details needed to pull off such an endeavour. 

To the Communities of: Mattagami, Moose Cree, Wabauskang, Neskataga, Shkoday, Indian Friendship Centre, Webequie, Aroland– Meegwetch for inviting us to work with your children and for graciously hosting  and supporting the camps! To the Community Mentors: Andrea Naveau, Carmen Cheechoo, Jason Petiquan, Aaron Yellowhead, Candace Hardy, Marriah Belcher, Eric Shewaybick and Chad Kashkish  – Meegwetch! Your initiative in taking on the Painted Turtle all on your own and your dedication in providing your communities’s children with effective programming this summer demonstrated true leadership, courage and a willingness to provide great opportunities for  your community!
And a big thank you goes out to Bailey Davis for being jumping on little bouncy planes and traveling with me throughout Ontario, and being an amazing facilitator and project manager!


 8 Community Mentors, from 8 Northern communities, were trained with a Painted Turtle arts based curriculum and methodology

15 Communities received art kits

 Number of children in communities that ran Painted Turtle Arts Camp for 4-6 weeks: 

Mattagami- 20 children
Moose Cree- 80 children
Wabauskang - 10 children
Neskataga - 25 children
Shkoday and Indian Friendship Centre- - 25
Webequie- 20 children
Aroland - 30 children
Hours of art-based activities for each child during the summer of 2014 :  80 -100 hours