On Friday, Dec. 22, the Healing Through the Arts exhibit was held at the Kana:takon Recreation Centre and debuted the artwork its students spent the last month creating.

The arts program, sponsored by MCA’s Community Support Program, started as a simple idea for the community of Akwesasne and came to fruition through the collaborative efforts of Katrina Lazore, Linda Lalonde and Corrine Johnson.

Linda Lalonde, an instructor for the Personal Development and Employment Program through the Akwesasne Area Management Board, shared Lazore’s excitement for developing the arts initiative. “Throughout the personal development program, we always look for passion because passion equals strength,” said Lalonde. “Katrina had the drive and excitement for the project, so we were able to pursue it with the help of Community Support.”

Case Manager Corrine Johnson (MCA’s Community Support Program) was integral in getting the initiative up and running. Johnson said Community Support was looking for cultural programs and was able to garner interest for prospective students within the community. “We started off with seven students and ended with five,” said Johnson. “I’m so proud of not only the success of the pilot program, but of each individual student’s success and development throughout this experience.”

During the month of December, the artists and students met on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Kana:takon Recreation Centre. Students explored different art mediums and compositions during the Healing Through the Arts workshop. Clay beads were used to create jewelry and blow art painting with straws on canvas made abstract creations.

“I like to make art that I enjoy looking at,” said Mackenzie Kanahstatsi Smoke, a self-described aesthetic artist. Another student, Cecelia Jacobs, said that the art helped to express her past.

“I had the students each take 26 [Post-it] notes, all for the letters of the alphabet, and hang them up so whenever they came across a word they didn’t know, they could write it and learn it,” said Katrina Lazore. Lazore, who also instructed the program, provided the students with a bucket filled with a clipboard, Post-it notes, watercolor palettes, pencils, erasers and a small journal. They were encouraged to not only explore different types of art, but different types of self-expression through journaling and other opportunities.

“We need to support people who want to express themselves artistically. Studies have shown the positive impact that art has on people and how they feel.” said Lazore, a local artist and member of the Onkwehonwe Arts Council. Lazore hopes to see this program take off within the community because she believes utilizing the arts could be extremely beneficial for anyone, but especially for First Nations communities.

For more information on the Healing Through the Arts program, please contact Corrine Johnson at corrine.johnson@akwesasne.ca or 613-575-2626 ext. 220.