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Thunder Bay unveils Maamawe Art Bus

The bus is intended to highlight Indigenous connection to the land and the years of contributions of First Peoples, as well as represent the healing process of our community from a different perspective

THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay, along with local Indigenous artists, launched the city’s newest Art Bus created by seven local Indigenous artists, five of whom were youth, on Monday.

The Maamawe City Art Bus is the third bus of this type to be put on the streets of Thunder Bay and the theme behind the work the artists put in was healing for the Indigenous community through the land, a timely theme according to Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro.

“We’re in the process of reconciliation right across the country. I think it’s a watershed moment for the country in terms of addressing these longstanding issues. It’s overdue in terms of the time and these small projects that the city has been a part of for a number of years now. This is the third bus since 2015,” said Mauro.

“I think they’re an expression of the city of Thunder Bay doing its part in one way here today in terms of moving forward with reconciliation. I think it’s a very public demonstration of the work that we’re trying to do to be a part of the reconciliation efforts.”

The unveiling event took place at the Transit Terminal Main Depot on Monday as dozens of people watched with excitement and the rest of Thunder Bay will soon get a chance to see the Art Bus as it hits the road tomorrow as a part of the city’s transit system.

Guided by the City of Thunder Bay’s Anishinaabe Elders Council, in partnership with the Youth Inclusion Program, Cultural Development & Public Art Committee, and Indigenous Relations Office, the Maamawe Art Bus project was facilitated by local Indigenous artists Shelby Gagnon and Morningstar Derosier.

"I think it's extremely important to have Indigenous representation in the city of Thunder Bay, it's a high population of Indigenous folks, and even with that, other Indigenous people seeing this bus might spark them to get involved with more art projects or art collectives in the city," said Gagnon.

The Public Art piece was developed through multiple engagement sessions led by lead artists Gagnon and Derosier alongside five local youth artists, Jacenia Desmoulin, Eva McKenzie, Lak Williams, Sage Laliberte and Athena Hudson.

"We thought about our strength that comes from the land, the strength that comes from these spirits and these beings, and we wanted to bring that to our city who wouldn't otherwise have access. We want to keep that strength going around the city, that love going around the city," said Derosier

The final concept of the work installed on the city transit bus was completed through the guidance of the lead artists with the help of graphic artist Chelsea Reid of Earth & Sky Studio.

“I just hope that whoever sees this bus will fall in love with it and will adore everything about it,” said Athena Hudson, one of the five Indigenous youth artists who worked on the bus design.

Justin Hardy

About the Author: Justin Hardy

Justin Hardy is a reporter born and raised in the Northwest.
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