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Taking Initiative – Murals and Machines LEAD Day 2

“For change to happen in any community, the initiative must come from the individual.” Dalai Lama

In day 2 of LEAD we all engaged in the process of art making, taking risks, vanquishing personal barriers and learning to take initiative while contributing to and drawing from a community of support.

In the AM we collaborated with renowned local Indigenous artist Jerry Whitehead, working with acrylic paints and stenciling on a large canvas mural that captured the LEAD values. Jerry provided a primed canvas animated with slashes of colour. Students were asked to reflect on LEAD values and to come up with a word or image that represented them, to find ways in which the values connect us. They designed stencils, placed them on Jerry’s canvas and used acrylic paint and sponges to transfer the images.

The canvas. Photo by Lori Sherritt-Fleming

Sketching and making stencils. Photo by Lori Sherritt-Fleming

Jerry’s art segment gave us all time to truly connect with students, to talk to them and offer encouragement. Some students sat staring at a blank page for a long time. We asked questions that got them thinking. One student who ‘had no ideas’ took ownership of the word LEAD and driven by his own initiative, transferred it to the canvas in two different forms. Another said he was no good at art and couldn’t get started. He wanted to stencil a soccer ball and was saying it was too hard to draw. We talked about simplicity, about not having to be perfect, but he had trouble producing something that made him proud. In the end, he created an amazing stencil that represented ‘team’ and smiled ear to ear as he stood back to admire it.

Jerry mentors a young painter. Photo by Roy Mulder.

Another student stenciled an 85 to represent the year his uncle was born, an uncle whom he loved and who had passed away. It gave him a chance to process his grief and thoughts around this significant loss. It was a powerful morning with Jerry; the collaborative canvas was complete by noon and proudly hung in the classroom, completely lifting the energy of the space.

Jerry and his grandson, the finished mural. Photo by Lori Sherritt-Fleming

Work in progress. Photo by Roy Mulder

In the PM we created a collaborative piece on stage. We focused on commitment and intention and worked with volume, energy, extension, expression and levels. We encouraged students to be brave, to act with confidence and take initiative, to come on stage when they were needed and to listen with more than their ears. We warmed up using improvisation and ‘machines’ a game where students each create a sound and movement to become part of a large, singular contraption.

Acting out! Photo by Roy Mulder.

Building on this, students collaborated to rehearse a piece that took one line of their pre-written “I Wish” poems and combined it with a pose. They then broke into small groups to create a choral tableau that completed the sentence: To make our wishes come true we must…

In our closing circle, we asked how taking initiative could inspire change in their own communities and suggested they do one small act to stimulate that change between the time we were dismissed and morning.

As for ARTCi and LEAD, our thoughts are echoed in a few of the youth’s comments as the second day of the program came to a close:

“I learned how I can help those around me.”

“Today I learned that all colours go together.”

“Today I learned to be brave.”

“Today I learned that listening is important.”

For more information about Jerry Whitehead, contributing community artist, visit: Stay tuned for more about LEAD and in the meantime, enjoy the image below that colourfully captures the reflections and sentiments of Britannia’s youth two days in.

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