By Rihkee Strapp
Rihkee Strapp is a Sault Ste. Marie-based artist and one of the five artists who participated in Ontario Culture Days’ Youth Arts Ambassador Program (YAAP), an exciting initiative aimed at fostering and supporting the next generation of community artists in our province. Read more about Rihkee and the Youth Arts Ambassadors Program at on.culturedays.ca/en/yaap
Culture Days kicks off in Algoma!
Friday September 30, SHELTER: What makes a place safe?
No matter how much media coverage there is or outreach I do leading up to an event, I always worry. Will anyone actually participate in this strange activity? I was proposing that total strangers join me in building a shelter all day downtown with cardboard and surrounding debris. Luckily, I did not even finish unpacking my materials before a woman and her son came over to inquire about what I was doing. Soon they were designing rooms and mechanisms to open and close the window flaps they had designed together. This enthusiastic pair said they had just finished building a cardboard house for their cat, and were excited at the idea of building a human sized one.
Soon people from Leeburn, Mississaugi First Nation, and the Sault came to add “solar panels,” a mailbox, a valet parking service, and shelves to hold heirlooms or items of special significance. Some people just came to sip coffee, and talk about the structure as they watched its construction. I was surprised at how few children participated in the building SHELTER, but was delighted at the end of the event when a handful of kids saw the structure and squealed with excitement as they ran through all the rooms, inspecting the different elements of the shelter.
Looking back on that culminating moment, and how SHELTER unfolded throughout the day, I felt the project was very successful and reflected what a community needs to be secure: the acceptance and encouragement of a mother, the support and labour of a community, and the joy that children bring when they are provided with these safe places.
Sunday October 2nd, SHELTER: Cardboard pop-up shop!
The inspiration for a cardboard pop-up market came from the real barriers people face to start their own business. Whether it is not having the financial support of your parents, to not being able to take out a bank loan because you live on-reserve. Living in Sault Ste. Marie, which is a city full of entrepreneurs, it is important to talk about these barriers in order to dismantle them. The temporary nature of pop-ups allowed anyone who came to spontaneous create a shop to sell goods or provide a service.
Wendy Blackman, Cold Lake First Nation's Economic Development Director, explains some of the barriers to entrepreneurship in First Nations communities: "To get a line of credit or loan, they say, 'you're owned by the band, why don't they fund you?',"
It started off as a pretty miserable looking rainy day, but the uniqueness of the event brought people out. I asked one of the attendees what brought them out, and they replied “I had never been invited to an event through instagram, and I thought I had to check this out.”
Set up in the alleyway beside the Sunshine Laundramat, the crowd and shops shifted throughout the day. From a DJ booth with an array of volunteer DJs to a beauty salon offering several different types of services. In the afternoon, a large group of youth cautiously came to check out why all these people were hanging out around cardboard boxes. A few of us had decided to play hacky sack, and a few of the youth joined in, playing the game for the first time. Once the sun went down people gathered to watch “Haircut” by 2spirit artivist, Teddy Syrette.
Haircut by Teddy Syrette
Teddy, who is originally from Batchewana First Nation situated next to Sault Ste. Marie, worked with me remotely throughout the summer, sharing ideas and discussing the theme of SHELTER and some of the issues facing our community: Missing murdered Indigenous women, the normalization of domestic violence, the disproportionate violence faced by trans women of colour. On a Tuesday at midnight, Teddy sent me the text for “Haircut.” We decided to present the poem using Guerilla projection, as the streets are often a site of violence for these groups.
The location of the pop-up market transformed at night, chalk political slogans proclaiming “Free Palestine” now graced the alleyways, and local MCs began came by to freestyle to the DJs spinning. When it was time to screen Teddy’s poem, I thought it was appropriate that the crowd was predominantly male/masculine folks. The power to generate empathy and responsibility for each other through our differences is what keeps bringing me back to community arts.
SHELTER in the news:
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