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Wisdom: Indigenous artists breathe new life into city bus

Seven Indigenous artists' passion was revealed through creative work of art.

THUNDER BAY -- A colourful display created by local Indigenous artists has residents turning their heads to see a work of art on wheels.

Local artists Shelby Gagnon, an Indigenous artist who works in a myriad of mediums and holds numerous workshops and Morningstar Derosier, an award-winning Indigenous filmmaker and photographer partnered with the city to create the Maamawe Art Bus, the third of its kind, in order to move the city further along the path towards Truth and Reconciliation.

"So I was engaged last year around this time for me and Morningstar to be facilitators to lead this project and so with that, we worked with Youth Inclusion Program and the city of Thunder Bay to start a call-out for young Indigenous artists to be a part of this project," said Gagnon.

The Youth Inclusion Program provides youth ages 12 to 24 with neighbourhood based and individualized programming to help create a safe and positive environment for youth to reach out for support.

Jacenia Desmoulin, Eva McKenzie, Lak Williams, Sage Laliberte and Athena Hudson all Indigenous artists who work in various mediums both traditional and modern joined Gagnon and Derosier in turning the bus into a work of art.

The final concept of the work installed on the city transit bus was completed by all the youth artists through the guidance of Gagnon and Derosier along with the help of graphic artist Chelsea Reid of Earth and Sky Studio.

Hudson was filled with emotions as she worked alongside the other artists.

"This project was really scary for me, but I'm really happy that I powered through it, and I stuck, and I stayed, despite all my fears," said Hudson.

The artists designed the bus with teachings of the land and water in mind. The bus features designs of water animals and plants on the left side with plants and animals from the land on the right.

Gagnon wanted the bus to represent two different visions on each side.

"We wanted to also represent, you know, one side being water and the teachings of water, and kind of like more woman teachings and make water beings and the beauty in which water is because we're surrounded here in Thunder Bay and just the power of that water," said Gagnon.

"So that was a big thing that we wanted to depict on this side of the bus, and then on the other side was more of daytime and more of the fire teachings and maybe more of that masculine energy on that side."

The artists hope to inspire others with their work and to hopefully help people connect culturally as the city continues on its path to Truth and Reconciliation.

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