London art mentorship program connects youth with Indigenous roots

Rezonance is a three to four month-long program that operates out of an arts incubator in the Old East Village with the help from two screen printing companies.

Youth learn all about screen printing and business entrepreneurship

Robin Henry is a mentor at Rezonance. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

It was through the art of screen printing that Robin Henry was able to embark on a healing journey that would eventually reconnect the London artist with their Indigenous roots.

The 30-year-old is now enabling others to do the same through a unique mentorship program that not only teaches Indigenous youth about screen printing and business entrepreneurship, but also helps them connect with their culture and heritage.

The program runs our of the Baker's Dozen on Dundas Street. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Rezonance is a three to four month-long program that operates out of an arts incubator in the Old East Village with the help from two screen printing companies and several other mentors alongside Henry. It's also known as the Out of Sound Rezonance Program.

"Print making and Indigenous culture are entwined. We use our art and our print making to connect with our culture and to heal whatever we have in us that needs healing," said Henry, who's also the owner and founder of the Antler River Press.

"We teach youth how to screen print and teach them how to run a small business. We are also oriented around economic sovereignty. A big part of what we can to do is create income, create jobs in our community and in order to create jobs, we need skills," added Henry.

There were four youth that took part in the last session. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

'Connect with culture'

A group of four ambitious youth were the first to graduate from the program earlier this month. They hail from near and far including Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames and Treaty Six.
Tsista Kennedy was part of the last session. (Submitted by Robin Henry)

They were taught how to design their own stencils and use a screen printing press. Henry said the art reflects stories about both the struggles and accomplishments of Indigenous people.

"Times are hard but we're also thriving as people," Henry said.

Henry said the art itself doesn't necessarily have to feature Indigenous symbolism but the fact that it's made by an Indigenous artist makes it Indigenous art.

"You Indigenize it by being an Indigenous person telling that story," Henry said.

"The hopes of the program is that they leave with not only the ability to screen print but like a new way to connect with culture, a new outlet for healing, for growth, for self-expression."

Henry did not learn much about their identity growing up, they said, which contributed to some challenges later in life.

"Making art was the way I healed," said Henry. 

Henry said screen printing helped them connect with their roots. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Henry hopes the program, which is partially funded by the Ontario Arts Council, will return for another session in the winter.