Engaging Youth in a World of Art

October, 2010

Saskatchewan artist, Gabriel Yahkakeekoot of Beardys and Okemasis First Nations was hard at work this past year helping First Nations youth connect to the arts.

As part of a special mentorship program, he had the opportunity to highlight the work of three high profile Aboriginal artists. Through a short documentary and community outreach, Yahkakeekoot introduced the work of Australian Aborigine artist Vernon Ahkee, Anishnaabe artist Maria Hupfield, and Ojibway artist Daphne Odjig, to local audiences. Each of these artists were featured in Mackenzie Art Gallery exhibitions this past year.

Yahkakeekoot is enthusiastic about what he sees when the children are introduced to the arts. He has been working with the Mackenzie Art Gallery, facilitating workshops and traveling with the Provincial Outreach Program for the past six year.

“I believe we are giving youth an opportunity to experience art with a multitude of mediums and expressions,” Yahkakeekoot said. “The youth we engage aren’t given the same opportunities as your average middleclass kid, so I hope that when I share what the arts have done for me, it might spark some interest in them”.

The project also included working with the Chief Kahkewistahaw First Nation to identify new opportunities for creative collaboration for youth, families and community. Through community visits, Yahkakeekoot shared the importance of the work by artists Hupfield, AhKee and Odkjig, worked with community Elders and gave youth a chance to express their own creativity.

The project to highlight the Aboriginal artists was made possible thanks to the Aboriginal Arts and Culture Leadership Grant offered by SaskCulture and Saskatchewan Lotteries.