Mawi’ Art signed an agreement with the New Brunswick Arts Board to increase collaboration with Indigenous artists and provide opportunities like workshops and grants.
Mawi’ Art: Wabanaki Artist Collective started as a project-based Indigenous organization, writing grant proposals for Indigenous artists. They were founded in 2013 and incorporated in 2016.
One of the tasks Mawi’ will take on is running Petapen, the bi-annual gathering of around 150 Indigenous artists in Atlantic Canada. Shawn Dalton, acting-executive director of Mawi’ Art, said the arts boards thinks there’s a need to support Indigenous artists. Now, with Mawi’ Art, that role is filled.
“[They said] there isn’t an organization that emerged from the Indigenous community to fill that need,” said Dalton. “We’ve matured far enough as an organization that we felt comfortable taking on the role of organizing Petapen.”
Dalton said this agreement is a way to formalize the collaboration between Mawi’ Art and the N.B. arts board.
The COVID-19 pandemic hurt businesses and events, but Dalton said they weren’t hit dramatically by it because they transitioned from a project-based organization to a program-based organization.
“We didn’t have a whole bunch of events planned we didn’t have to re-group on,” said Dalton.
Dalton said one of the biggest problems for emerging and Indigenous artists is mentorship. One of the things Mawi’ Art did last year to help was a 12-week training and entrepreneurship program. The program had a 100 per cent completion rate where 24 people learned skills like beading, quilt-work and paddle-carving. They also learned other skills to promote their work like photography and web-design before the program came to an end.
“Mentorship is a huge issue. It comes up in every meeting,” said Dalton. “Now we got these artists that are like ‘that was fun. Now what do we do?’”
Joss Richer has been the executive director of Arts NB for four years. He said each province’s arts boards in Atlantic Canada organized Petapen and it’s now up to somebody else to organize the event.
“It’s up to somebody else to do it, and preferably it would be nice if there was an Indigenous organization [that] would take it over,” said Richer. “Mawi’ Art stepped up to the plate.”
One aspect of Arts NB collaborating with Indigenous artists is going to Indigenous communities and working with artists. That’s where Corrina Merasty comes in. She’s the Indigenous outreach officer for Arts NB and travels to Indigenous communities to work with artists.
Merasty is also an interdisciplinary artist, working in music, film and painting. She said that her wide background and interest in art helps her with her role.
“My role is to engage, boots on the ground … I can’t be behind a desk,” said Merasty. “If you’re an artist yourself, you have a better understanding.”
While some work a typical nine-to-five job, Merasty said she doesn’t stop. She said that she tells the artists she works with to call her anytime, even at night.
“I’m pretty much 24-7. Like I work all weekend, all evening or all day,” said Merasty. “It doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like my work is my personal life and my personal life is my work.”
Richer said it would be good if there was an organization that advocated on behalf of Indigenous Peoples given that there’s already strong advocacy from Francophone and Anglophone artists in New Brunswick. He said Arts NB has always had a good relationship with Indigenous Peoples and put out programs before, including the Equinox program, which provides support for Indigenous artists in the province.
“New partnership with Mawi’ Art is basically the next step in this evolution,” said Richer.
She enjoys creating wreaths and bouquets by layering threads and designs
When Henry first started her embroidery hobby about three years ago, she was looking for something to do creatively with her hands. One night while her husband was out, she asked him to pick up some supplies.
“I bought a couple of patterns online. Soon, I was doing it constantly. And while I was really enjoying it, I wasn’t very good. I’d never stitched anything before,” said the 27-year-old.
“It takes patience and practice. You really need to be devoted to it to get better.”
Soon, she was reading through a book of stitches, detailing the different types and techniques.
It’s a slow art, she said; it’s not something a person can pick up and finish within an hour.
“The first pieces I started were floral bouquets. I basically would rough outline and then fill it in as I went. I’d work with different colours of threads and details.”
As she continued to hone her craft, people would tell her that her embroidery pieces were beautiful and that she should consider selling them.
“I was asked to recreate a bridal bouquet for a wedding commission. Monograms as well. You can customize each creation. It makes a good keepsake, even hanging decorations in a newborn’s room.”
But selling her work didn’t come immediately.
“I was nervous to put anything out. People said they were good, but I wasn’t sure they were good enough.”
Another Island maker asked her if she ever considered entering an Etsy pop-up or starting her own Etsy store. That interaction helped her gain more confidence to start a business, Hoop and Holler.
Of all of the embroidery she creates, Henry said likes the different wreathes she can make by designing flower patterns and bouquets.
“It’s all about layering. I love the texture in pieces I can create by using different thicknesses of thread. It’s always fun. Every piece depends on what works for you and what works for the piece.”
The practice of embroidering is relaxing, she said.
“Any craft where you can use your hands, focus on it, but then still have the opportunity to have the tv going or listen to music while you work… there’s nothing better than embroidering while you’re under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea by you and a movie on.”
She said she’d like to start working on more personalized pieces, a trend that she’s seeing among makers.
“I feel like embroidered flowers and greenery are always going to be popular. But I’ve seen lately people are using thread to paint a picture rather than use traditional stitches. People are getting portraits made or even pet portraiture. So, a piece of thread will have six individual strands, and then an artist will use those six strands to start the project. Adding a more authentic texture to what the picture is of.”
Get a hoop
Pick a material (not too thick) and thread.
Secure fabric in the embroidery hoop.
Using a pen or other writing utensil, sketch a pattern on the fabric lightly; this will act as a guide for the pattern.
Depending on the design, there could be several stitches used to fill in the design (running stitch, whip stitch, fishbone stitch, woven wheel, etc.)
Once finished, Henry adds another fabric to the hoops acting as a backing.
When Henry is finishing a project, she prefers to finalize the creation in a wooden hoop.
“They’re really simple and pretty and compliment the projects compared to the bright-coloured, plastic ones. But when I’m in the process of making something, I prefer the plastic ones, because they can hold the fabric really snug, and that’s what you want.”
The hoop must be snug and tight against the fabric to make sure the material doesn’t crease, which can make the process harder and impact the designs, she said.
“I prefer to use cotton or linen because it isn’t super thick. When the fabric is thick, it will be harder to stitch. I typically use quilters cotton and D.M.C. embroidery thread.
“As for needles, get some that are big enough so you can thread the needle, but one that’s not too big that it will leave visible holes in the fabric. I also keep a pair of small, sheer scissors.”
For someone who wants to start an embroidery project but doesn’t have the materials, there are many local Canadian artists that can supply them with the materials, pdfs, and kits.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of kits become available to people wanting to give it a try. I think it (and other hobbies like this) are being sold a lot more and becoming more popular because people are looking for a way to relax.
“And it’s an awesome craft because it’s portable. You can do it where ever you want.”
She said those looking to try a new hobby, including embroidery, shouldn’t be a perfectionist.
“If I could go back and tell myself anything, it would be just that, not to be such a perfectionist. Just have fun and be creative. Don’t be so concerned about the end result. Make it about the process and get enjoyment out of it. Use it as a way to relax or learn.”
Local dignitaries gathered on Saturday to celebrate the grand opening of Art Works, the city’s newest Art Centre.
Joining owner Chris Bennett for the official ribbon cutting was Belleville Chamber of Commerce CEO Jill Raycroft, Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, Belleville Councillor Garnet Thompson on behalf of the City of Belleville and Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis.
Bennett, a familiar name in the local art scene is the creator behind many of the amazing murals seen around the city. Bennett has been a self-employed muralist, dancer, performing and multi-faceted artist and performing artist in the Belleville area for more than 25 years.
Bennett’s dream has always been to provide arts opportunities for youth and adults, helping them grow and discover their passions through inspiration, education and the freedom to express themselves.
Art Works is his dream come true.
“Art Works reflects how well I am personally doing as an artist; to be able to give back and provide a space for all aspiring and established artists to grow from and to be the influence to our community that I did not have growing up in the Quinte area by creating a studio like no other,” said Bennett.
Check out Art Works on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Arts—Entertainment/Art-Works-203932277210806/). Art Works is located at 257 North Front St. in Belleville.
A local organization in Mozambique is using the power of images to fight discrimination. Azemap, a volunteer-run organization that supports people with albinism, has begun painting five murals at schools across the central Mozambican province of Tete, in collaboration with Human Rights Watch. The murals depict two girls, one with albinism. Below the murals, it reads: “People with albinism are the same as you!”
In the past two years, I’ve encountered many people with albinism in Mozambique who are struggling —not because of their physical condition, but because their communities ostracize and discriminate against them, and authorities do little to combat this stigma or support their needs.
“People would come and throw rocks at me and I had to hide,” said Rosa, 34, describing her childhood. Her father abandoned the family because she had albinism. “People would say, ‘You’re not a person, you’re a witch.’ They would call me an ‘animal’ and say my color is not the color of a human being.”
Rosa is one of dozens of people with albinism whom we interviewed in Tete province. Albinism is a rare condition caused by a lack of melanin or pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes. Almost all of those we spoke to suffer widespread stigma, discrimination and rejection at school, in the community, and sometimes from their own families. They face significant obstacles to a quality education because of bullying by their peers and sometimes teachers, and little accommodation in the classroom for their low vision.
For this to change, the government of Mozambique needs to dismantle the systemic barriers that people with albinism face. It also needs to transform societal attitudes to foster acceptance and inclusion of people with albinism within their communities.
Josina, a 9-year-old student with albinism in Tete province who is depicted in the murals, has a hopeful story. Instead of being considered an outcast, she is integrated in her family, school, and community. If these images can touch a few hearts and minds, they may also help provide hopeful futures for Rosa and many others with albinism and begin to end the struggles they endure.
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