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Community Gathering Circle

On Monday, October 18, 2021, individuals came together in circle at Big Medicine Studio in North Bay, Ontario. Members of the Gathering Circle included Indigenous artists and community members of the Nipissing area and surrounding region to discuss the vision of these Indigenous creative spaces, noting what is needed and what must be avoided. The Gathering was co-hosted by Sid Bobb and Penny Couchie, Co-Artistic Directors of Aanmitaagzi.

About Aanmitaagzi and Big Medicine Studio

Aanmitaagzi is an Indigenous multi-disciplinary community arts organization based in Nipissing First Nation. Co-founded by Sid Bobb and Penny Couchie, Aanmitaagzi frequently hosts community-engaged arts projects such as workshops and performances. Aanmitaagzi manages Big Medicine Studio, a 1,200 square foot multi-use art-making space located on the family land of Sid and Penny. Aanmitaagzi is a strong support to communities across North Bay, Sudbury, Temagami and more for their community-oriented work.

Exploring a vision of Indigenous creative space

Penny framed the discussion by posing the following questions to the members of the Circle:

  • What is a great space?

  • What makes a great space?

  • What is essential for a great space?

 

Paper, markers, pastels, and colored pencils were passed around so that everyone had an opportunity to visualize their thoughts and feelings, and answer in a creative way.

What is a great space?

 

The Gathering Circle understood that a great space is committed to First Nations values, allowing those who use the space to find and connect with their own strengths linked to their culture through their arts practice. To heal and help members of the community, the space could also feature programming and opportunities around wellness and healing.

 

A great space can provide opportunities for connections and relationships to be made/sustained with visitors and those who activate the space, as well: for example, opportunities to teach and share knowledge of different artistic practices such as beading, dance, and music can help to creatively engage with the community.

 

It is also important to consider the space’s connection to the land, and how it could provide natural and land-based resources on location to support the artistic production of artists using the space. The Gathering Circle explored the connection of a creative space to the land, highlighting that its design and programming can be environmentally sustainable to give back to the land.

What makes a great space?

 

The Gathering Circle suggested that a great space includes a kitchen to provide an opportunity for the community to gather and connect over a meal.

 

The Circle acknowledged the importance of creating a safe space, and how it’s experienced by visitors. Safety is perceived respectively from person to person; creating a mindful and evolving approach to space practices (such as offering inclusive programs) can support operations that promote a safe space.

 

The Circle emphasized the importance of a space’s evolution over time, either through updating and renovating its design, to organization evaluation, to understanding how it can better serve the community.

What is essential for a great space?

 

An Indigenous creative space can showcase art and offer programming such as workshops for multi-disciplinary art-making. Another important piece to consider is the accessibility of a space:  installing ramps and wider doors, for example, can support artists and visitors who require these accommodations.

Exploring personal connections to creative space

 

Penny guided everyone through another creative visual activity, with a focus on self-expression, around the following prompts:

  • Where did you come from?

  • Where did you land?

  • What is a space that called to you?

  • What negative or unneeded things would you leave behind from this space?

 

Everyone was given paper, pastels, markers, and colored pencils to draw images that answered each of the above questions. Similar themes across each visual depiction included:

Creative spaces are physical structures, as well as spiritual spaces without physical form.

Personal creative journeys begin in nature; creative spaces where members of the Circle felt they “started” all had a connection to water, earth, and storms.

 

Spaces should ensure that visitors do not feel insecure, anxious, or culturally disrespected in the space. The Gathering Circle felt that visitors should know that no harm will come to them in this space.

 

It is also important to think about how those using the space can physically and spiritually care for it, as if it was a living being. Holding space for ceremony and feasting to take place can nurture and support the space for the community.

Resources

North Bay, Ontario.