Colleen Gray — Indigenous Artist, Strong Woman, Good Human - theHumm August 2020
Colleen Gray — Indigenous Artist, Strong Woman, Good Human - theHumm August 2020
By Sally Hansen
In June of 2019, Colleen Gray received the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers “for her role in supporting art exploration through access to art supplies and creative art programs in Canadian remote Indigenous schools through the Art for Aid Project”. Gray is the founder and indefatigable driving force of the project that: “…works to support Canadian First Nations, Inuit and Métis art education programs through access to quality art supplies, awareness and fundraising efforts. We work to connect Indigenous youth to art and knowledge of their culture. We seek to accomplish this by ensuring art supplies are in remote schools and communities.”
Gray funds her project through the sales of her own striking contemporary Indigenous art augmented by greatly appreciated donations. She pours every cent of her sales into the operating costs of collecting and distributing donated art supplies to Indigenous communities across Canada. Her story is fascinating; so is her art.
Born in Petawawa, she had an unconventional upbringing, and describes herself as being very good at bridging needs. Her experience includes trapping, grave digging, working for a yard maintenance company, many years of administrative work, and finally being an office manager for a Jewish Family Services non-profit organization in Ottawa. Only after she met her husband, Fred Goodchild, however, did her “ring of insecurity” evaporate. Her lovely tribute to this number-one fan who gave her confidence to become a charity entrepreneur is not original, but it is poetic: “I could not do this without his wind beneath my wings.”
Colleen’s ancestry on her mother’s side comes from the Acadian people in New Brunswick, and from Irish folks across the big pond. She remembers vividly that it used to be shameful to be Native in Canada, but she had heard a rumour that her mother spoke Acadian. The rest of the family denied it, but one day she discovered her ancestry through an uncle talking about filling his freezer with moose meat outside of hunting season. When she questioned him, he pulled out his Indian Status Card and informed her he could hunt whenever he liked. She is fiercely, gratefully, and generously proud of her heritage.
Gray’s artworks are testaments to her passion for sharing Native values and wisdom. Her Indigenously-themed art on display for sale at artforaidshop.ca is beautiful, inspirational and profoundly moving. On her website she notes that she strives to be the “visual voice of an ancient time.” To further achieve that goal, she includes stories gleaned from First Nation wisdom keepers, ceremonial people, Elders, and other resources. For her 40th birthday her husband arranged for her to meet with Algonquin spiritual leader Grandfather William Commanda; he couldn’t have found a better gift. Gray has wholeheartedly embraced the causes for which Commanda’s achievements earned him an appointment to the Order of Canada — promoting intercultural understanding and raising awareness of the traditions and legacies of Canada’s Aboriginal people. Colleen also shares his dedication to the protection of the environment.
It was during the Attawapiskat housing crisis in 2011, as she watched Chief Theresa Spence fasting to bring attention to her band’s deplorable situation. that Colleen’s urge to help coalesced. She noticed that in every news broadcast there were kids watching TV in the background. This is a synopsis of what she told me: “I wondered what they had access to. I had never done any research into how these kids lived in these communities. As an artist what I wondered was, do they have any access to art? What can I do to bring more positive energy to these kids? The arts always get cut first — minimal supplies. Art is so healing and so powerful; it can break boredom and isolation. When you are an artist you always have something to fall back on, but it takes access to tools. I used my social media network to reach out to friends and other artists in Lanark County and Ottawa and told them I would really like to send art supplies to Attawapiskat. In just two weeks I had a basement full of supplies. I believe people really want to help; they just don’t know how.”
Her life is now brimming with purpose — and work. Her Art for Aid Project continues to thrive and creates countless opportunities for Colleen to extend her reach into remote Indigenous communities. She had always enjoyed creating art, but her successes with providing “new and gently used art supplies” to kids who could not otherwise explore their artistic talents have given her a whole new sense of purpose. She discovered ground mineral watercolour paints at an art fair and then bought some Yupo synthetic paper for her pen-and-ink and marker drawings. When she accidentally discovered that the petroleum-based Yupo paper was ideally suited to her new watercolour paints, she conjectures that “The Creator must surely love irony.”
The originals of her works are now available for sale in addition to all her archival prints, art cards, inspired posters, and unique “Influenced Birthday Cards.” Based on traditional Indigenous Medicine Wheel myths (comparable to other cultures’ zodiac signs), the influenced cards offer recipients a new take on their equivalent “spirit animals” or astrological signs.
No Rest for the Dedicated
Despite COVID-19, Colleen is right in the middle of a back-to-school Art Supply Collection Drive running until August 19. With the help of some fabulous volunteers, her home is festooned with tarps to facilitate spreading donations out in the sun and spraying and wiping all materials to guard against transmission. If you are able to contribute “new and/or gently used art supplies”, please email email@example.com for a drop-off location address. Donations to fund costs of operations are gratefully received at host charity I Love First Peoples ilfp.ca and official tax receipts are issued for monetary donations of $20 or more.
Visit www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/21-languages-covid-art-1.5645150 to read about Colleen Gray’s remarkable experience in providing “wash your hands” posters in 23 different Indigenous languages as her submission to a United Nations COVID undertaking. I highly recommend you check out artforaid.ca to fully appreciate the magnitude of her endeavors on behalf of Indigenous peoples, mother earth and all her inhabitants. I hope she writes a memoir.
Art… and Soul
By Sally Hansen
In June of 2019, Colleen Gray received the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers “for her role in supporting art exploration through access to art supplies and creative art programs in Canadian remote Indigenous schools through the Art for Aid Project”. Gray is the founder and indefatigable driving force of the project that: “…works to support Canadian First Nations, Inuit and Métis art education programs through......
Scotland in the Yard Richard Gill’s 2020 Show,with Guest Artist Jack Stekelenburg - theHumm August 2020
Since 1972, Burnstown sculptor Richard Gill has conceived and created a thematic body of work for his annual show every fall. When the pandemic hit, he and his wife Cheryl Babineau(the owner of Bittersweet Gallery) decided that the show must go on.
Since it is much safer to gather outdoors and since Richard’s work is weather-worthy, they are making good use of the gallery grounds to enable a safe environment for patrons to view the works in person while maintaining social distance.
This year, the Festival of the Wild Child will see a change in activities that will focus on your safety while encouraging you and your children to fall in love with creative outdoor learning and play. Come out on Saturday, August 29 for a day of woodland fun — a fantastic opportunity for families and “social bubbles” to participate in nature-inspired scavenger hunts.
This event is offered by the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) and will provide thematic scavenger hunts a......
A COVID-19 Parents’ Guide to Wellness OR How to Keep your Sanity until “Back to School”… Whenever that Is - theHumm August 2020
By Sarah Kerr
I don’t know how all of you parents are holding up, but my anxiety has gotten to the level of needing to quit coffee. I LOVE coffee, and have never had to experience JOMO (as Craig and Amber at Equator Coffee Roasters call it) — the Joy of Missing Out — aka decaf. But I’ve let myself get so worked up about the implications of this pandemic on families that I’ve had to temporarily give up my caffeine fix and find my JOMO.
I’ve also always been pretty a spontaneous gal. But after 20 weeks of homesc......
Empty Bowls are Back! - theHumm August 2020
By Hinda Goldberg
Looking for a way to support local food security programs, and get something beautiful and useful as well? Come to the Riverguild Fine Crafts at 51 Gore Street East in Perth and get an Empty Bowl or two.
Empty Bowls Perth is part of an international grassroots effort to fight hunger in our communities. For those new to Empty Bowls, the basic premise is simple: potters create handcrafted bowls. Usually the community is invited to enjoy a meal of soup and bread at the Festival of the Maples in ......
theHumm has been reaching out to members of our Ottawa Valley community to ask how they are finding ways to use their gifts and skills in these challenging times. Sarah Reside is a young woman who grew up in Almonte and is now the administrator of the Facebook group “Lanark County Letters”. We contacted her to find out about this new initiative in active democracy.
theHumm: Can you describe how the group works for readers who may not be familiar with it?
Sarah Reside: “Lanark County Lette......
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By Sarah Reside
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Being an ally is a practice, one action after another that becomes a pattern of allyship. Because the system was built......
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theHumm: First of all, how have you and the Cove been faring since COVID hit?
Seamus Cowan: It has been an engaging, all-consuming time. Home with family was wond......
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How are You Coping? Community Groups Seek Resident Feedback with COVID Community Check-In Survey - theHumm August 2020
Lanark Country residents: how have you been doing since the pandemic arrived?
That’s the main question behind a survey that’s been launched on behalf of nearly two dozen community service agencies from across Lanark County in an effort to gain insight and identify gaps when it comes to community services and programming.The Table Community Food Centre, North Lanark Community Health Centre, and the Lanark County Situation Table are conducting the survey on behalf of an informal group of community se......
Libraries Reopen! - theHumm August 2020
By Amanda Robinson is the CEO at Lanark Highlands Public Library
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The health and safety of our patrons and staff continues to be our priority and measures including physical di......
From Sunday, July 26 to August 9, join right from the comfort of home to take part in the 25th annual MidSummer Herbfest — a virtual celebration of healthy living and initiatives. You’ll find demonstrations, music, kids’ crafts and activities, as well as all your favourite vendors — with links to see and shop their swag! This year’s Herb of the Year is Brambles (also called Rubus) — a variety of your favourite yummy berries.
Because the event is virtual, from July 26 to August 9 everyone is......
Safe Decadence in Westport - theHumm August 2020
By Rona Fraser
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The BlueHappiness Jacket - theHumm August 2020
By Glenda Jones
Back in March when my winter jacket was grey and grotty, I gave in to spring fever and luxuriated in the rainbow that is Judy Joannou’s shop on Mill Street in Almonte. Racks of alluring summer wear in greens, pinks, and swirls of oceanic and floral designs, sang of a season in the sun. I pictured drinks on the patio, swanning through flower gardens, summer hats, and anything but slushy sidewalks and grey skies. Every piece conjured the coming months of summer.
It was a true “dreaming ......
Friday Night Films in Perth - theHumm August 2020
It’s curtain time again! The wonderful volunteers at Perth Studio Theatre have been working hard to safely re-open for Friday night movie screenings. The first took place on July 31, and others are planned for August. Only 50 tickets will be sold for each night, to allow for safe distancing in the audience. Visit studiotheatreperth.com for up-to-date details and to reserve your spot!
If you want to be sure to get a ticket, you can also reserve over the phone. Just call 267–7469, leave a message on the answering machine wit......
By Andy Fisher
Something powerful happened on the Summer Solstice this year at the Perth Healing Forest Memorial. Elder Francine Desjardins led a gathering and pipe ceremony that both celebrated the Solstice and witnessed the systemic violence experienced in Canada by Indigenous and Black peoples. The event honoured Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls & Two Spirit People, and the Black Lives Matter movement. With demonstrations circling the globe in this moment against racial violence and police brutality, it was an important time to stand together in ceremonial space here in unceded Algonq......
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