Dreamcatcher workshop with Fred Penner part of national arts project

Thompson youth will have the opportunity to contribute their voices and dreams to a nationwide multidisciplinary arts project to celebrate Canada’s 150th year this Saturday at the Boys & Girls Club.

The Dreamcatchers Workshop is being spearheaded by the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island as part of a tour that will touch down in all 10 of Canada’s provinces as well as its three territories and then combine submissions from youth into a musical production to be performed across Canada.

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The workshop is being led by Charlottetown Festival associate artistic director Mary Francis Moore and indigenous visual artist Nick Huard with help from Manitoba guest musician Fred Penner.

“We chose artists who are from that province to talk about how they went after their dreams,” says Moore, who is a writer, director and actor herself and will take the opportunity while in Manitoba to see her own play performed by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Company in Winnipeg. “They talk about their paths, they talk about whether this was always their dream or how they got there or how they achieved the level of success they did and usually the artists do some sort of exercise with them.”

Dreamcatchers are used not only to enable participants to create a tangible piece of art that will be combined into one large dreamcatcher by Huard, but also to encourage youth to share their dreams for themselves and the future and their country as a means to explore various avenues of self-expressions.

“You can live in this community and grow up to pursue your dreams,” Moore says. “You can be from a small town and grow up to be an artist.”

Huard has previously worked on a smaller scale to combine dreamcatchers made by youth into a larger dreamcatcher fashioned by him.

“I’ve done one in Membertou [First Nation], a 12-foot dreamcatcher,” Huard says. “It took seven years to accomplish. There’s 212 small ones that children have made hanging from the big one and council is held underneath that dreamcatcher because those are the dreams of the children of Membertou.”

Huard had a long career in documentary filmmaking and began making dreamcatchers in 1986 after an accident that resulted in a 17-month hospital stay.

“I went to powwow and I saw an elder making one and it’s like I knew what he was doing, I knew it all my life and then it just sort of poured out of my fingers and I’ve been doing workshops in schools all across Quebec, Venezuela, France,” he says.

Working with youth is a joy, Huard says, because they are still young enough that the doldrums of life haven’t dulled their belief in dreams.

“You show them the rudiments of making a dreamcatcher and as soon as they pick it up, you’re home free and the satisfaction of that eureka moment of the children is super,” he says, calling himself proof that dreamcatchers work. “Every time you look at the dreamcatcher, it reminds you to pursue the dream the creator put in your heart. If it comes from your heart, it’s good.”

“Basically the idea is in every province they will have a musician, a creator, to be with some young people to talk about their dreams and aspirations and where life is going for them and ultimately that communication will lead into some kind of creative work,” says Penner, who made his own decision to follow his dreams of playing music and performing in 1972 and has been living them for the past 45 years, with a new CD coming out and plans to be in Thompson again to perform in April. “It’ll be a pretty intense creative path here and I’m very excited to see where it leads. I think in the way our world is unfolding and the challenges that we’re all dealing with no matter where we are on this planet, that there’s a need to really hear certainly what the youth have to say and what their dreams and directions and feelings are about what’s happening in this life and how perhaps we can pull things together and find a common ground that will give everybody a bit of a boost and some sense of strength.”

The workshop has already been to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta, says Moore, and her work won’t be over once the workshops are all complete.

“Fred Penner will write us a song,” she says. “Twin Flames in Montreal, they’ll write us a song. We’ve got City Natives, they’re a hip-hop brand out of New Brunswick, they’ll write us a song. We have a choreographer, we have a B-boy dance group who do B-dancing on the ice and snow up in Whitehorse, they’re going to create a dance piece for us. All of that gets submitted and then I piece it all together and create a show based on all those submissions and based on the workshops I’ve done. It’s a pretty mammoth undertaking. It’s an intense few months, but exciting.”

The Thompson workshop is for youth aged 11 to 15 and potential participants can visit http://dreamingcanada.ca/en/workshop-application to apply to attend. It runs from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on March 11. Youth 17 and under who can’t attend the workshop can still contribute to the process by submitting their dreams online in English or French at dreamingcanada.ca or capteursdereves.ca.

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