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Local Indigenous artist guides students through mural project

Lucia Laford teaches Grade 6 students at École Notre-Dame-du-Sault about the cultural importance of traditional Woodland style

Indigenous artist Lucia Laford recently helped local Grade 6 students add some colour to the halls of École Notre-Dame-du-Sault with a new mural project.

The daughter of local traditional Woodland style artist John Laford taught the students about the cultural importance of the style.

"At the very beginning of the artistic process, the students were invited to draw freely according to their interests," says a news release from Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon. "Once all drawings were collected, Lucia made sure that the mural would include at least one element from each student."

Full text of the news release follows:

Grade 6 students at École Notre-Dame-du-Sault (Sault Ste. Marie) recently concluded an extraordinary cultural and artistic experience. It all started in September when their teacher Ms. Marie-Claude Racine suggested that they add colour to the hallway in front of their classroom.

After a few adventures, the group was put in contact with Ms. Lucia Laford (Waawaaskone Qwe), an Anishinaabee artist from Sault Ste. Marie, to involve her in their mural creation project. Having learned and followed in the footsteps of her father, John Laford, she paints in a traditional Woodland style. Lucia also uses many other techniques in her artistic practice. Although Lucia has not spoken French for several years, she made an effort to speak French to the students during her visits to the school.

From the beginning of the project, Lucia introduced the students to the Woodland style creation process, a medicinal and Anishinaabe painting genre, which is practiced by the First Nations of the Great Lakes region. The Woodland style, created by artist Norval Morrisseau, includes drawings of people, animals, nature, symbols and sacred objects.

As part of this project, students participated in a traditional Indigenous ritual of burning sacred medicinal plants. During this purification ceremony, the Grade 6 class burned sage. One after the other, each student passed the smoke which emanated from it on them for purification purposes.

At the very beginning of the artistic process, the students were invited to draw freely according to their interests. Once all drawings were collected, Lucia made sure that the mural would include at least one element from each student.

Having reached a consensus on the colours to use, the students painted the wall with a coat of white paint. Afterwards, Lucia traced the drawing in pencil, and with the help of some pupils, they worked on its outline with a black pencil. This is when the students began to paint their work: one layer at a time, the result really began to take shape.

And then, the final touch. The contours were delineated in black by Lucia under the attentive gaze of the students. Once the work was completed, the students were happy to sign their name on the work of art and took pride in identifying their contribution to the mural.

To conclude this cultural and artistic project, Lucia sang the song Mino-bimaadiziwin to thank life. Afterwards, the students had the chance to take part in a tobacco ceremony.

École Notre-Dame-du-Sault is very grateful to VIBE Arts, which supported this project by paying the costs associated to this mural creation initiative. Through its arts education programs, VIBE Arts seeks to create a lasting impact on the lives of young people. It supports vibrant communities where young people express themselves artistically and use their creativity and leadership to engage fully in the community.

The Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon offers a French-language Catholic Educational Program that is widely recognized for its excellence. The CSC Nouvelon provides a quality learning environment and academic program that runs from early childhood to adult education, with some 5,900 students enrolled in 27 elementary, 1 virtual school and 10 secondary schools.

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