Large-scale art project recognizing Sixties Scoop survivor in works

QUISPAMSIS – A large-scale art installation depicting a Sixties Scoop survivor as a child and raising awareness of the Every Child Matters movement is in the works at Quispamsis Middle School.

During a Quispamsis council meeting last week, visual arts teacher Heidi Stoddart presented plans for the Grade 8 project to educate students about the Sixties Scoop, a period in Canadian history when thousands of First Nations children were taken from their families and communities to be adopted by non-Indigenous families. The proposed project would also raise awareness about the environmental impacts of cardboard waste.

“It’s called The Power of the Individual to Effect Change and in social studies, students will explore the amount of cardboard waste that is being created in an age of home delivery and more online shopping,” Stoddart said. “They will also target reconciliation through education, so we’re hoping to take steps to address the mistreatment of First Nations children in Canada.”

If the project moves forward, pending an arts grant for a professional artist and materials, the school would partner with New Brunswick artist Bonny Hill.

Hill, a retired art teacher, recently helped to organize an art project at Sussex Elementary School involving students creating a diversity mural, made up of individual puzzle pieces, which was erected on the school building in May.

Since the project is a “massive temporary art installation,” Stoddart told town council it would require a large floor surface to be viewed from above or at a distance.

The art teacher requested the use of the Qplex arena floor on Nov. 10 if the project is successful in receiving an ArtsSmart grant, a program that helps schools and communities carry out enhanced art projects with education as the aim.

For the project, students would meet Minda Burley, a Sixties Scoop survivor who was taken from her Cree family in Western Canada and raised by a non-Indigenous family in New Brunswick.

About 180 students would recreate Burley’s childhood portrait from a pixelated, large grey-scale image. The students would collect cardboard waste and cut it into thousands of six-inch squares, painting each square to correspond with the pixelated image.

Stoddart said this is where the Qlex comes in as the students, clad in orange shirts – a symbol of the Every Child Matters movement – will come in one class at a time and install their cardboard pieces row by row.

The completed artwork would measure approximately 75-by-60 feet and when viewed from above will recreate Burley’s portrait, Stoddart said.

During the council meeting, Coun. Noah Donovan and Deputy Mayor Mary Schryer said they were excited to support the project, but asked that if it moved ahead whether the school has a COVID-19 plan in place as cases are on the rise in the province.

Stoddart said depending on the Public Health regulations at the time, the viewing of the project might become virtual.

Council voted unanimously to support the school using the Qplex for its art project in November.

By Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter