During a blizzard, rather than running from the storm like other animals, buffalo press forward directly into the wind and the snow, thereby minimizing time spent in the storm. From an Indigenous perspective, resilience is epitomized by the buffalo. Building resilience is a lifelong journey of moving through challenges and into hope, light and opportunity.
The Art of Resilience exhibition is the result of four art workshops held at Glenbow for children and families served by Kainaiwa Children’s Services Corporation Prevention and Support (KCSC P&S). The workshops were led by four exciting artists: textile artist Caitlin Thompson; digital and zine artist, Sarah Scout; painter Florence Shone; and professional freelance photographer Neil Zeller.
The goal of these workshops was to foster self-awareness, self-expression, group cohesion and self-confidence; the result was the creation of some truly remarkable and honest works of art-created individually and collectively with families, friends, mentors and staff. While the art is the visible manifestation of this project, if you look more intently at the pieces on the walls, what you will see is the art of resilience.
Fostering resilience in children is a collective responsibility to nurture strength, sharing, honesty and hope. As stated by Duran in Healing the Soul Wound, “through the healing of individuals, the groundwork can be laid for the greater healing of the community…if even a small critical mass of healing can be generated in a few people, this will create a snow balling effect that can encompass the community in positive healing.”
Before each workshop, the children and families served by KCSC P&S were led in traditional Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) teachings in Glenbow’s collections by Elders Blaire and Wanda First Rider. The elders shared the longevity and endurance of the Niitsitapi who have lived successfully on the land for thousands of years, demonstrating the inherent resilience of their ancestors and of themselves prior to each art activity.
The children participating in the workshops were asked to challenge themselves creatively and expand on the concepts they learned from the Elders: stitching applique taught perseverance, patience and overcoming challenges; zine production encouraged creativity, imagination, and self-connection; the painting workshop taught basic art skills and composition, but also collaboration and cooperation as youth, staff and families worked to complete canvasses together; finally, the photography workshop provided technical skills, but also the freedom to explore and self-reflection.