Gumisistiy Youth Art Program

The Cause

Gumisistyi means to “persevere,” “keep going” in Tsuut’ina. This youth art program is a partnership between the Tsuut’ina Nation Youth Program, Stride Gallery, and TRUCK Contemporary Art. There is an absence of rural, Indigenous youth in our galleries. We wanted to bridge the geographical, financial and cultural gaps that exist in art galleries and minority communities. Riel Manywounds, who is the Youth Program Director in Tsuut’ina Nation, told us that the youth feel unwelcome and out of place in arts spaces in Calgary that are mostly void of Indigenous or PoC presence. Geared for youth from ages 14 to 21, the workshop participants will have an opportunity to work with diverse medium such as sound, analogue film, animation, performance, sculpture, and ceramics. The workshops are facilitated by Indigenous artists who will act as mentors, providing them with a positive role model. The program empowers the youth by finding their unique artistic voice and expressing their pride in their Indigenous knowledge, their own struggles, trauma, resilience, abundant joy, and self-realization. Each workshop is supported by an Elder who shares their prayers, blessings and knowledge around each topic.

Gumisistyi program has been running since 2018, during which Stride learned many valuable lessons around hosting Indigenous youth, elders and artists, and build a solid foundation of relationship with the community of Tsuut’ina Nation. In the past, each program was with a new artist, new medium and topic, often hosted at a different art gallery.

For this next phase of the program, we would like to work with two artists from Treaty 7, who will build a long-term relationship with the youth, working on a series of programs that will build towards a bigger project. The two artists will each provide a three-month curriculum. We want to experiment with this new format to see the depth of conversations and sharing that are possible when a group builds a long-term relationship and trust with an artist and one another. While we have not selected an artist yet, the artist will be solicited to do a few outdoor, land-based workshops during the fall and spring, moving onto Zoom to facilitate online courses in the colder months. Main focus will be to present contemporary art practice and medium that require specialized facilities and expertise as well as technical, conceptual challenges. We are excited to present art forms the youth may not have encountered before.

Who Will it Benefit?

Tsuut’ina Nation Youth are our main target audience because we rely heavily on the Tsuut’ina Youth Program staff for outreach. They have built strong relationships with the youth in the community to solicit their interest and participation in these programs. However, the workshop is still open to other Indigenous youth in Treaty 7. Through this program these youth will be introduced to new ideas around what Indigenous art looks like. There are many contemporary artists who channel their traditional knowledge and intergenerational dialogue to push the boundaries of their art. Some artists challenge the category of “Indigenous art” itself. Some artists refuse to work within the colonial notion of art and the art market. All of these ideas will be shared with the youth, to help form their own idea of cultural sovereignty and artistic expression. These youth will be engaged in a program once a month.

Elders and the youth get to connect with one another. Each workshop is attended by an Elder who share their knowledge and experience with the youth. Every Elder we’ve worked with testifies to the importance of creating these moments of intergenerational dialogue. This relationship will continue, and the youth will learn valuable lessons from their Elders.

Stride Gallery and our partner TRUCK Contemporary Art will benefit from this experience, as we learn deeper about facilitating youth programs and building relationships with youth. These relationships themselves are glaringly lacking in arts institutions. We will be gaining invaluable insights in what it takes to build these relationships with a rural Indigenous community, their youth, Elders, Youth Workers, high school teachers, parents and artists.

An Indigenous person from Tsuut’ina will benefit from a contract employment opportunity. The effect of the pandemic is disproportionately devastating on Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. Tsuut’ina in particular struggles from the closure of the Grey Eagle Casino that provided employment for many people and revenue for the Nation. Albeit a single person, this person will receive employment as Youth Program Coordinator in charge of liaising with artists and community.

Two artists will benefit from this valuable artistic opportunity to share their practice with green, emerging youth.