To work with and receive direction from Inuit elders and youth of the Kivalliq in preserving Inuit heritage, culture and language is the mandate of the Kivalliq Inuit Association’s Social Development Department. In an effort to encourage youth to develop their artistic talents while working with other youth, the department held a Kivalliq Art Therapy Workshop at the Kivalliq Trades School in Rankin Inlet. Bernadette Dean, Social Development Coordinator, and Daisy Panika, Program Coordinator, organized the workshop. Arts contributions from Canadian Heritage, the Government of Nunavut and Economic Development and Transportation funded the program.

A total of 15 participants from Kivalliq Communities travelled to Rankin Inlet to attend the five-day workshop. The workshop began with introductions and presentations and then participants were tasked with the art part of the program. Choosing an image of their choice, they were asked to draw what they feel and what they see. Participants learned new paintbrush techniques and ways to paint, which paint to use for different landscapes and faces, and other related artistic techniques that the instructors introduced during the workshop.

Epiksaut Friesen, originally from Rankin Inlet, who now lives in Inuvik, flew to Rankin Inlet to help instruct the workshop. She was also involved with the Art workshops the Kivalliq Inuit Association delivered in 2006-2007. Her participation was a great way to help the Inuit youth involved have a youth-to-youth dialogue. Friesen was able to share her artistic talent to teach new skills to the youth that they can further develop. Learning from a youth who has been able to earn an income with her artistic skills also helped motivate the youth to set goals and realize their own potential in the field as well.

During the evenings, the women were invited to attend a sewing class. Since sewing is a part of art, learning new patterns and ways to sew a pocket, cuffs and zippers, was very fulfilling for the ladies. Many of them had never been taught how to sew with an industrial sewing machine so this was an opportunity for them to learn these new skills. Many of them were also mothers. This was a chance for them to learn how to sew a jacket, learn new designs and ways to cut patterns and where to sew them on so they can make garments for their families. Thank you to the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre for allowing the participants to use their sewing machines during the workshop. Besides learning artistic skills from one another and a chance for sharing thoughts and feelings, another goal of the workshop was for all participants to complete two to three art pieces to show at the art gallery that was held at Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. A total of 48 pieces of artwork were made during the workshop.

The Art Therapy Workshop helped participants realize their artistic potential and developed their patience and concentration in creating their artworks. Participants found the program therapeutic, positive and memorable, while also giving them the opportunity to meet new friends as well.

The Kivalliq Inuit Association’s Social Development Department is hoping to organize another Art Therapy Workshop with elders, possibly sometime in the summer so participants can spend a day or two out on the land as well.