These projects tell a story about the present through stories from our past.
One day while work-shopping Pterodactyl Delight, a romping children’s play with music and dance about aboriginal cultural appropriation, a girl from Grey County regretted having no knowledge of her own heritage. We were working in two communities; one half of the group was from Cape Croker First Nation, and the other half was from Grey County. Each had independently drawn a collective picture of their own community. The drawing from Cape showed the landscape, the animals, the people, a road, and then buildings and vehicles, and as a final touch, a tiny dinosaur way down in the lowest corner. Asked about the dinosaur’s meaning, the child said, “Have you seen the fossils down at the dock? That’s how long we’ve been here.” The group from Grey County had drawn circles of people; one circle drew a gun pointing to another group. When they shared and talked about their drawings, the different contexts hit home. And that girl from Grey County said, “I feel like I have a hole in my heart.” The rest of her peers agreed. They wanted to change that. It spurred me to tell inspiring heritage stories to celebrate our social fabric, to help build community and our sense of self. To fill that hole in their hearts.
Community arts projects have expressed people’s stories of the Underground Railroad (A Desperate Road to Freedom), First Nations culture (Pterodactyl Delight), “local hero” Tom Thomson (TOM), a local industry (The Ballad of Kennedy’s), winter holidays past (Snow Wonder) and the living history of our elders (I’m Just a Kid Again) among others.