WIKWEMIKONG—For the past six years Wikwemikong artist Mike Cywink has been visiting schools through the Aboriginal Arts in Schools program, Ontario Arts Council and various school boards, but those avenues can be somewhat hit and miss, dependant on available funding and something of the luck of the draw, so the Anishinabe artist has decided to try a different tack—crowdsourcing.
“I have visited about 35 schools through the program, that’s about 3,000 kids that have been reached, but there are another 40 schools that I couldn’t reach yet,” he said. “So I thought to myself ‘maybe GoFundMe can get me to them’.”
The artist approximates that his project will take about $60,000 to bring to fruition. “It takes about $3,000 a week and about 25 hours a week,” he said, adding that, “this is for communities, not just schools.”
With tight budgets all around for school boards and the various levels of government, finding the funding isn’t always successful each year. By taking that out of the equation, Mr. Cywink anticipates his program can find another route to success.
His Cultural Appreciation from a First Nation Perspective project deals with themes of the clans, the dodems, historical events, residential school as well as the Seven Grandfather Teachings as students explore a variety of the styles associated with First Nation arts. “I have a lot of artifacts with me,” he said. “I have arrowheads and items, some of which date back more than 20,000 years.” Mr. Cywink also utilizes the pictographs carved into the rocks by the Anishinabe in antiquity.
Passing on the knowledge of the culture and history of Canada’s First Nations is more than an occupation for Mr. Cywink; for many years it has been his life’s passion. “I have been travelling to communities up North as a volunteer for the Arts Canada Circle, helping out with Northern reserves,” he said. His latest trip was to the community of Pikangikum First Nation, an Ojibwe First Nation located on the 1,808-hectare Pikangikum 14 Reserve, in the Unorganized Kenora District of Northwestern Ontario. He has been asked by the OPP and RCMP to return to do a presentation in the school.
Mr. Cywink’s GoFundMe page can be found at www.gofundme.com/cultural-art-project, where a video presentation by the artist explains the project in his own words.