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A Cry from the Deep. The Spirit of Ancient Bones take council with Grandfather Sun around the state of Earth’s waters.

The Art For Aid Project raises funds to help replenish the art supply cupboards in Canadian Aboriginal schools. This is accomplished through the sale of Aboriginal artwork by self-taught Canadian Metis artist, Colleen Gray.

The project began 3 years ago when Gray learned that very little money is allocated to art supplies and programs in much of the Aboriginal schools on reserve. Holding an existing and significant body of personal artwork, she was inspired to fundraise using her artwork to raise money and awareness.

The Visit.
The Visit. The Eagle flies with prayers to the ears of our Creator. His love for us is true.

“I have all this artwork and it’s doing nothing but sitting silently between the pages. I wanted to make a difference. I really hope this effort will live to see some of the more endangered art forms having life breathed back into them”, stated Gray. “There are Elders, teachers and artists with tremendous knowledge and youth with tremendous curiosity and perhaps the money raised will help schools get the supplies they need. I have passion and a pen, I can do anything.”

The Art For Aid Project initially started through word-of-mouth and was carried by social media, growing quickly in scope and popularity. November 2014 saw the launch of the first in-house fundraising benefit with the help of Jewish Family Service’s of Ottawa Board President, John Jackson, along with our host, Gallery 101 and a number of donors. The fundraiser was a success and Kashewchewan couldn’t have been happier. To date, three communities have been highlighted in this fundraising effort; Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, and this year’s recipient is the Kitiganik School in Rapid Lake, Quebec.

“’At the fundraiser, I found that a good number of people are eager to donate art materials but the costs of shipping goods to schools would sweep away the donations pretty quickly. Finding anyone to ship anything north for free is not an easy grape to swallow”, Gray stated. She decided early on that the schools could best determine how to use the money for their art programs and decided to simply donate it with a request for images that show how the money is being used for art in the school and community. This eliminated the shipping cost problem.

The Waterkeeper's Messenger
The Waterkeeper’s Messenger

The JR. Nakogee School in Attawapiskat utilized their funding and St. Andrew’s school in Kashechewan will be completing a mural project this fall that they’d lost funding for. It was only partially completed when the money ran out. The students and principal were very grateful to be able to have enough to purchase all the supplies they’d need and also hire a local artist from their community to help them with the final design work. The Kitiganik School is very excited to have some funding to help support their art program when this fundraising term comes to a close in December.

Canadian Metis artist, Colleen Gray
Canadian Metis artist, Colleen Gray

This year, Gray developed NPO Services, an innovative graphic design and creative services contract platform specializing in small budget work. The contract work allows her to continue to provide funding to The Art For Aid Project while earning a modest salary.

The Art For Aid Project is young, but the concept of art inspiring youth is not. Art can bring healing, provide an outlet, and become a voice for social change. It can highlight borderless cultural beauty and reveal the brilliant minds of Canada’s First Artists. We believe students need art; for this reason, we will continue our efforts until every Aboriginal school has access to the supplies they need to bring forth the artist within.

For more information on The Art for Aid Project, contact Colleen Gray at , on Facebook and through Twitter @afaproject .

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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