A tale of two Nunavut arts communities, and youth working together
"Art is a very good tool for self-expression”
Rhoda Nashalik and Tasha Partridge said they were really nervous.
The 13-year-old Grade 7 and Grade 8 students from Pangnirtung were in Cape Dorset for the first time, to spend the week with a group of junior high students on the other side of Baffin Island.
They were among seven students from Pangnirtung’s Attagoyuk Ilisavik school who flew to Cape Dorset to take part in a series of art workshops on April 9 to April 13 with another seven students from Peter Pitseolak school.
Both Nunavut communities are home to print shops and art studios, so the two towns were a natural fit for the exchange, which has since been dubbed the Cape Pang Art Hang.
Though arts were a key focus, the program was developed as a wellness program, to help encourage self-expression and collaboration.
“It was scary meeting people we don’t know,” Nashalik said. “Me and Tasha challenged each other to make a friend. She won.”
It turns out each of the girls had a cousin in Cape Dorset taking part in the exchange, whom neither had met before. By the end of the week, Nashalik and Partridge both made a bunch of new friends and family connections, with plans to stay in touch.
But the girls returned home to Pangnirtung with more than new friends.
Partridge, who’d done some pencil sketching before, picked up a pinhole camera for the first time.
While some basic photography is taught at the high school level in Pangnirtung, this was “the first time I used a camera as art,” she said.
Partridge’s favourite part of the week was visiting the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative and art studios, where she did lithography for the first time: etching out an image in rubber and then creating a print of it on paper.
Nashalik took to photography quickly, documenting many of the week’s activities herself. She enjoyed taking portraits of all the students.
Students also had a chance to learn to do simple animation, by drawing directly onto 16 mm film.
Pangnirtung filmmaker David Poisey accompanied the group and helped students learn the basics of filming.
“It was like, wow,” Nashalik said. “I think we got so much better at art.”
While the Pangnirtung students came home armed with new art skills, the teachers who organized the exchange say they hope the experience of collaborative art making will help the youth reflect on their needs and wants and equip them to better tackle personal issues.
“We felt that art is a very good tool for self-expression,” said Pangnirtung teacher Jonny Lush, who led the workshop with another teacher, Julien Wallot-Beale.
“All my students have told me they find it relaxing … it makes them happy,” Lush said. “It’s good for making connections and for discovering their self-worth.”
The workshop itself was funded through the Government of Nunavut’s Suicide Prevention Program.
Now, the seven Pangnirtung students are planning to post their work to social media and eventually to a new website, so they can share their new creations.
“We felt it was a big success,” Lush said. “We’d like to do it again, but maybe bring the Cape Dorset students to Pang.”