Arviat youth use art workshops to discuss difficult topics

TakingITGlobal is organizing art workshops in Arviat, Nunavut, to help children and youth in the community connect to Inuit traditions and express their thoughts about feeling safe and supported in their community.

"I saw hope in them. I saw joy in them," says workshop coordinator Daniel Kooveanatuk

Young people in Arviat, Nunavut, are using painting, throat singing, drum dancing and storytelling to connect with their community and express their feelings on difficult topics, like alcoholism, suicide and food insecurity. 

TakingITGlobal, a non-governmental organization that focuses on empowering youth around the globe, visited the hamlet last week to host the workshops and celebrate Global Dignity Day. 

A picture says a thousand words and if you can't say those thousand words, then draw it down and it will be a little easier.- Daniel Kooveanatuk, TakingITGlobal

Jennifer Corriero, co-founder and executive director of TakingITGlobal, says people in Arviat, which has a population of about 2,400, were able to look at a "Moments of Inclusion" art exhibit, before putting their own paintbrushes to paper. 

"It was a very inclusive way to discuss some issues related to isolation, but even more importantly to be surrounded by images of hope and happiness," said Corriero. 

'The power of their own voice'

As part of the exhibit and workshops, Iqaluit-born Daniel Kooveanatuk, 17, shared his own art. He told the participants, who ranged in age from five to 24 years old, that painting helped him through some difficult times in his life.

​"Without the power of art, I don't think I could express the feelings I can't say in words," said Kooveanatuk, who is the Nunavut youth empowerment coordinator for TakingITGlobal.

This painting was made during a series of youth art workshops in Arviat, Nunavut. Jennifer Corriero, who co-organized the workshops through TakingITGlobal, says rainbows were a common theme among the art projects. (TakingITGlobal)
"If they draw it down and then they show an adult, like a supervisor or something, they can start talking. A picture says a thousand words and if you can't say those thousand words, then draw it down and it will be a little easier."

TakingITGlobal is planning to do more workshops in Arviat in a few weeks and it hopes to expand to other Nunavut communities soon.

For now, Corriero is collecting markers, crayons, paints, large rolls of paper, books and DVDs of dance and yoga to send to the Nunavut community. 

She says she hopes youth will use the materials and what they learned in the workshops "to better promote and encourage Inuit youth and to speak up and to have a voice and just to realize the power of their own voice."