15-year-old Ariana Chikane from North Caribou Lake enjoys the extracurricular activities at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School (DFC).
“I didn’t have supplies back home like I saw an art club here and it looked fun and I joined it,” she said.
“That’s how I got into it.”
The talent that comes from this club is on display all over DFC.
It’s also hanging in the city’s airport, and in exhibitions at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
The art club is an outlet for students like Chikane who are attending high school away from home and family.
North Caribou Lake where Ariana is from for instance is a fly in community located 500 km north of Thunder Bay.
In fact, many of the 100 students attending DFC come from remote First Nations spread out across northern Ontario.
The students have worked with well-known Anishinabe artists like Saul Williams in the past.
“It’s like once a week but then I do art every day after school.”
This year, they tried something new with local art educator Elizabeth Buset.
“Stenciling is a medium that I work with,” said Buset. “I don’t really consider myself a graffiti artist because I don’t do like freehand spray painting but I do do stencil work.”
The completed project is a spray painted wall mural.
It reflects the different subjects at DFC.
“They selected all the images and then from there we designed the stencils, they hand cut them all and then it came up to the actual spray painting of the mural, they chose where it would be positioned on the wall, what colors it would be, the layering, it was all collaborative from start to finish,” said Buset.
Ariana and her cousin Robyn did a piece by the late Anishinabe artist Roy Thomas.
“I learned about him, found out about him in art class,” said Ariana.
Thomas’ wife Louise owns Ahnisnabae Art Gallery in Thunder Bay.
She said it’s important to support the young artists at DFC.
“There’s a lot of wonderful artists that are coming out of this school,” said Thomas. “When you look at these young people, our people, we have just natural talent.”
Thomas said she hopes the art club can inspire youth.
“We need to have these things to inspire other artists even if you’re not from this school, there’s lots of talent out there,” she said.
“I always encourage artists don’t waste your talent, do something with your talent.”
For Ariana, it’s all about the fun experience.
“I like bringing stuff to life.”