By Rick Garrick
Rocky Bay’s Shaun Hedican enjoyed teaching his spiritual self-portrait workshop to an overflowing class of First Nations youth on Jan. 15 at Neechee Studio in Thunder Bay.
“Everyone is adding their own style,” says the 35-year-old artist who returned to his Robinson Superior community about three years ago and has since hosted two Neechee Studio workshops.
“We had everyone take an image of themselves and we pasted it on to the canvas. Then we decorated the canvas with images that are meaningful to them and colours and so on.”
Hedican says the creation of art can help people heal.
“I find that we heal ourselves and others by creating objects of beauty and expressing ourselves and using colour,” Hedican says. “We all need a lot of healing.”
Hedican became interested in art when he was young — his grandmother Margaret Hedican was a successful artist in the area.
“But I didn’t really take it on full-time until I moved to Toronto,” Hedican says. “Later, when I felt I could move elsewhere and still be a professional artist, I moved to Rocky Bay on Lake Nipigon, the area where my ancestors are from. I decided to live somewhere that is meaningful to me.”
Hedican says the move has been challenging but also rewarding.
“Right now for example, I am cutting a lot of firewood for next year,” Hedican says. “It’s great to see the benefits of all my own efforts and to engage the land and learn all these other meaningful things that were a part of our ancestral lifestyle.”
Hedican says his life on the land reinforces a lot of the ideas he tries to convey through his art.
“From a decolonization sense of things, I think it is meaningful to live the life that we are always talking about,” Hedican says. “Before I had sort of dabbled with hunting and different things but now I am actually doing it full time.”
Fort William’s Anne Marie Demerah enjoyed learning how to create her spiritual self-portrait mixed media art piece.
“I loved it,” says the 21-year-old Lakehead University native access student. “I love the environment I am in. It’s such a healthy environment and so positive. I really like learning new things and it’s getting me out of myself.”
Demerah was one of a number of Fort William youth who attended Hedican’s workshop, which was held from 5-8 p.m. at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery.
“I just enjoy the Neechee Studio workshops,” says Fort William’s Helen Pelletier, who brought a number of youth with her to the spiritual self-portrait workshop. “This is the fourth time we have come and every time I plan on bringing more kids. They really learn how to connect with the artists and each other.”
Pelletier says the Neechee Studio workshops provide youth with positive reinforcement and brings out the artist within.
“(They say) it’s so much fun; can we come back again,” Pelletier says.
The Neechee Studio workshops are held every month throughout the school year through support from the RCMP, Carleton University, community partners and Aboriginal youth.