Story by Kat Lyzun, Photos by Damien Bouchard and Willow Blasizzo
Since its inception in 2013, Neechee Studio has been an inclusive place for Indigenous youth to create and learn traditional and contemporary art forms. The Definitely Superior Art Gallery’s popular art program offers various creative workshops for young people age 14–30, covering everything from beadwork, quillwork, silk-screening, hip hop songwriting, street art, sculpture, film, as well as photography.
Early in February, Neechee Studio tested out a double workshop that integrated both painting/collage and film. Filmmakers Michelle Derosier and Sarah Furlotte helped their group interview the painters, guided by Cynthia Edwards and Shaun Hedican. Lora Northway, Def Sup’s youth outreach coordinator, says it was amazing to see how fully engaged everyone was.
“The act of creating fosters relationships and encourages communication, empathy, tolerance, and openness,” Northway says. “Everyone is encouraged to join in, learn, and help others with the ultimate goal of strengthening leadership, communication, and social skills in order to become active participants in their communities and positively affect those around them.”
Lucille Atlookan is from Eabametoong First Nation and the lead outreach coordinator for Neechee Studio. Art has long been an important part of her life, particularly as an outlet to deal with difficult circumstances and emotions growing up.
“We do things that can help us in positive ways and art was one of them for me. I was using it as a healing tool, which I didn’t know at the time,” says Atlookan. “It made me proud to have created such artwork that represented how I felt. I have always wanted to pursue a career in art. Neechee Studio has been guiding me toward that path.”
Atlookan was part of the team that came up with the idea for Neechee, which is supported by the RCMP, Carleton University, and community partners. She envisioned a place she wished she had access to as a teen—a place that empowers youth through artistic expression.
Northway says the studio now has about 280 members and youth coordinators whose input helps design each year’s programming. “Neechee grows bigger each month, with around 50 youth coming to every workshop. It’s a crazy fun place to meet new people, hear amazing stories, be inspired, and connect with artists and the art community.”
For more information visit definitelysuperior.com.