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Creative solution found to funding problem. (Art).

In a time of education cutbacks and reduced funding for the arts, the Aboriginal Art Project of Edmonton Public Schools is in a unique position. It doesn't have to worry about money for the next couple of years.

The project raised $1,400 recently, and none of it came from the school board. Instead, the fundraising was the result of the efforts of three Aboriginal young people, with a little help from the Edmonton Police Service and the Interprovincial Association on Native Employment (IANE).

Donna Leask, national president of IANE, started the Aboriginal Art Project for' the Edmonton Public School Board several years ago. She saw a gap in programs for junior high students and wanted to make sure Aboriginal students with artistic talent had the opportunity to develop.

When Constable Daryl Mahoney, Aboriginal liaison officer for the Edmonton Police Service and board member of IANE, heard of the program he offered to help give it a jumpstart. From the police service funds for community building, he was able to commit three $100-bursaries per year for four years to three artists involved in the project in exchange for their artwork. This first year he picked out three pieces of their work, and donated them to IANE.

At the time, the IANE Alberta board was looking for a way to adorn the binders given to delegates of their national conference held at the end of May. Leask suggested placing on each binder a reproduction of the artworks. This would showcase the talent of the youth, while demonstrating the organization's commitment to encouraging artistic endeavor.

The three works were then sold by silent auction at the IANE national conference. Half the proceeds went back to the project; half went to IANE Alberta to start other initiatives.

The project has been a resounding success, surpassing all expectations.

The students involved in the project produced their work in a workshop led by Suzanne McLeod, an Anishinaabe from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. The theme of the workshop was Clothing as Identity. Besides teaching about history and heritage, stereotypes and traditional techniques, McLeod led the students to produce their own war shirts or ghost dance dresses.

"I had a very hard time picking my three for the bursaries, Const. Mahoney said. "If I could have, I would have chosen them all."

People at the conference were amazed that junior high students and not professional artists produced the shirts.

When the silent auction started, the bidding took off. The shirt called "Thunderbird Project", by Nicole G., a Grade 9 student, was purchased by the Apprentice and Trade Certification group in Prince Albert, Sask.

"The Inner Brighter Side of Me", a piece done by Randale C., Grade 8, was purchased by the Technologies for Learning Group in Winnipeg, which plans to frame it in Plexiglas and hang the work suspended in the organization's newly refurbished office so that it looks like it is floating.

The third shirt, "Northern Lights Four Flight" was created by April R., Grade 9, and was purchased by the IANE Ottawa chapter. They plan to tour the piece around all the government buildings in Ottawa before putting it on display in the IANE offices. Ultimately, the shirt will hang in the Ottawa Aboriginal Youth Centre.

Funds raised for the project will be used to give honorariums to the artists who lead the workshops.

Everyone involved with the project is very pleased with how it has turned out.

"This is a great example of what kids can do when given the opportunity, especially junior high students, who tend to be overlooked," said Leask. She believes that art is as important to teach children as language arts, especially when it is used as a vehicle to teach young Aboriginal people about their heritage.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Edmonton Public Schools' Aboriginal Art Project
Author:Stackelberg, Heather von
Publication:Wind Speaker
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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