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I had an idea...

And that idea garnered $20,000 to do an Artists in Schools grant with Wynyard Elementary School and Wynyard Composite High School from Sask Arts Board. Shown in the picture is back row: L to R Grade 7 Teacher Kassidy Maddigan, Artist Marea Olafson, Principal Michael Jordan. Front row: L to R Grade 1 teacher Melanie Chorney, Grade 3 Teacher Kara Bugyi, and Grade 5 Teacher Niki Prime. Missing Artist Kevin Pee-ace, Elder William Strongarm, and Principal Trevor Otsig.

As an Art Teacher, I applied for four Artist in Schools grants and had projects that ranged from learning CAD and Photoshop, creating a claymation that explained the economic changes in Treaty Four territory, creating a student lounge based on the Human systems, and creating an Art Garden with a 8'x12' broken tile mosaic with traditional First Nations teachings. In the fall of 2022, there were many little nuggets that inspired me to eventually design the present project. Discussions about personal land acknowledgement with former colleagues was the first nugget. National Orange Shirt day had me thinking of how I could make a difference was the next nugget. A phone call about an art project I was thinking of applying for funding but I was having imposter syndrome. Instead of ignoring all these little nuggets, I sat down at the computer and an idea was born!

The project is for the grades 1,3,5, and 7 students from the two schools to work with Kevin Pee-ace to make two 8'x8' murals that will be placed on each school. The theme of the murals will be personal land acknowledgement and connections. Elder William Strongarm will educate the students on First Nations traditional thinking involving the land, treaties and how reconciliation can happen. This week actually Kevin and William will be in the schools with the hopes of inspiring designs and knowledge of the area and land where the students live. All the students in Wynyard Elementary School and the grade sevens in WCHS will send images, words, and ideas to Kevin. He will sift through all the creations and design two different murals that bring together the learning, the connections between the schools and the community. He will present the two mural drawings back to the students and have them approve it. After Easter, he will return and the students will work together to paint the large murals.

In May, I will join the students as an artist and show them how to make tin can cups out of clay. We will then proceed to transfer the mural images to each student's cup. The idea of taking a 2-d mural and put it onto functional pottery will allow the students to spend time with the theme, and the imagery while discussing personal land acknowledgement. June 21st there will be an unveiling of the murals and the pottery cups to the public. The murals will be a testament to the work in the schools on reconciliation and a reminder to continue working towards more understanding. The cups will go home with each student as a reminder that we each have our own individual story we carry with us in every community we go to.

This is the second pillar of my business: TEACH, which is me going out into the community as an artist and teaching hand building pottery. I am very excited about this idea coming to life and the whole process of artists in school will provide a learning opportunity that we never thought possible. Put 2 artists, 4 teachers, 2 principals, 1 elder and nearly 300 students....stay tuned to what is created!

Marea Olafson

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