New arts NGO gets boost with startup award

New arts NGO gets boost with startup award
Mother-daughter team Bren and Kiera-Dawn Kolson receive a Field Law award to help kickstart their new youth art initiative.Photo: Kiera-Dawn Kolson.

A budding organization hoping to connect youth and elders through the arts was given a recent financial boost as one of the winning finalists in Field Law’s community fund program.

Mother-daughter team Bren and Kiera-Dawn Kolson received $2,000 last month to help kickstart their dream of developing a collaborative art project that would bring gifted youth from remote communities or with limited finances together with elders to develop their abilities in an environment supported by traditional Aboriginal knowledge.

“We feel that there are gifted Aboriginal youth in the small and remote communities, and what we want to do is bring them to a workshop with elders where perhaps recognized and established artists would also donate their time to working with the youth, to give them information and awareness, give them some ideas about starting out,” Bren shared with The Journal.

Kiera said the art shop will be a multifaceted initiative, providing youth with leadership and self-marketing tools that can be used to help launch an artistic career or transfer to other professions and areas of life.

The gathering will also provide a space for talking about important issues and gaining traditional knowledge from the elders.

“We’d like to provide a safe, learning, cultured space where youth can not only develop these gifts and the creativity that they have, but also find guidance from the elders who have such a profound traditional knowledge,” Kiera said.

“It’s a safe space where people can be creative and express themselves, but it’s also a safe space where you can address sometimes confrontational issues, where people are going to come to it with an open mind. I think that art is a great way for young people to find their voice and to explore their identity and engage with themselves in a way that’s beyond what the statistics say our communities solely consist of.”

She said including elders is vital to the core of the project because of the value of their teachings as it relates to cultural identity and traditional artistic practices.

“In honour of everything that they’ve endured, experienced and survived, I think it’s our responsibility in this generation to develop a passion to create a better understanding, not only of who we are to help empower ourselves, but also so it’s retained for the future generations so we know what to harvest and take from the land for particular artistic approaches,” Kiera said.

The two women are still fundraising to get their charitable foundation off the ground, but are hoping to start off with a gathering in Yellowknife where youth and elders can come together for a first time before moving on to potentially holding artistic workshops in different communities.

“I think that when these youth have the opportunity to develop their skill sets, it would be a great opportunity for them as well to have the chance to give back to their community and share what they learned,” Kiera said.

The Kolsons’ project was one of several to be awarded donations by Field Law for community building. Also recognized were the Aurora Fiddle Society for performance training, the Yellowknife Beavers, Cubs and Scouts, who received money for a facility upgrade, and the community of Fort Resolution, which received the grand prize of $15,000 for its initiative to create a soccer pitch.

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