A Team of Indigenous Youth Artists are Creating Moveable Art

Story by Sara Sadeghi Aval, Photo by Jordan Wanakamik

Sitting across the table from Shelby Gagnon and Morningstar Derosier, I am overwhelmed with a sense of community and hope. Gagnon and Derosier have been enlisted by the City of Thunder Bay to facilitate the new design of an upcoming art bus. As part of the Mamawe Art Bus Project, the duo has gathered eight local Indigenous artist applicants between the ages of 18 and 29 to create a visual reminder of the Indigenous community within Thunder Bay.

“The goal here is to put something out in the public that is both healing and creative, and for Indigenous youth to come together and create something that affects their community,” says Gagnon. “Public transit is commonly used and we want the population to be able to look at it from a different perspective.”

While the project is still in the early stages, the team planned to meet at the end of June to begin their brainstorming process, with the full reveal of the bus and its art in October. The main theme of the project is healing and representation, and they aim to highlight Indigenous land and artistic style with the design. “We haven’t sketched anything yet; we want this to be fully collaborative with the youth artists and really develop organically based on what they also want to see,” says Derosier.

“We also want to focus on what there is to celebrate, and what brings you joy about the Indigenous community,” she continues. “We’re really working on holding this space physically and in person. The Baggage Building at Marina Park has offered their space, and we’re hoping to utilize other local outdoor spaces, and with keeping COVID in mind we’re hoping the regulations continue to lift for us to meet and create, hands-on and together.”

“Relationship building is also a big part of this,” adds Gagnon. “We’re hoping to create relationships with these youth as well. They each will have their own unique take, and it helps bridge the gaps that exist outside and within the Indigenous community.”

Gagnon graduated from the fine arts program at Lakehead University in 2019. Since graduation, she has been involved in multiple community projects focusing on colonialism and holistic healing. She also works with Indigenous Food Circle and its focus on food sovereignty and heritage. Derosier is heavily involved in film and design, currently running her own production company called Cedar Cinematic. Her latest feature was scheduled to be shown at Interstellar Outdoor Cinema on June 25.

Asked to describe Thunder Bay in three words, the duo answer, “Work. In. Progress.” with that same sense of hope.

Shelby Gagnon can be found on Instagram @rootveggii, while Morningstar Derosier is @morningstarderosier_ . Keep an eye out for the grand reveal of the art bus in October 2021.