Thunder Bay

Giinawind art collective to bring creativeness, new programming to community

Giinawind, which recently opened their doors in Thunder Bay, is an art collective that is created for and by Indigenous people.

New art collective in the city a “hub” for Indigenous people

Jacenia Desmoulin, left, and Benjamin Murray, right created Giinawind Art Collective together. It's a safe space for Indigenous people. (Jasmine Kabatay/CBC)

Giinawind Art Collective was formed in downtown Thunder Bay to provide a safe space for Indigenous people to gather and socialize is important.

The collective opened up their doors on October 15 providing a new space meant to act as a hub for Indigenous creativeness and art and currently includes a space for tattooing and graphic design.

There's also events happening out of Giinawind, including a drum night social on Thursdays and a beading night social, with a Gatsby themed night happening later this month.

Jacenia Desmoulin is the founder and director of Giinawind and says starting this collective was part of a spiritual journey for herself and came at a time where she lost her job due to COVID-19 and she got herself lost hiking on the Sleeping Giant trails.

It also had an impact on her growing up and is something she saw needed in the city.

"I ultimately decided that I wanted to be the person I needed when I was younger, and I hope to facilitate a lot of the programs that I participated in in my youth and be that mature leader that a lot of the youth need here in Thunder Bay," Desmoulin said.

"We need a place that is founded by us, that is operated by us and can be an example for other places to develop and to mature in the community because we just don't really have that."

Also operating in the space is the Earthling Collective, which was founded by Benjamin Murray who is also a co-director of Giinawind.

We need a place that is founded by us, that is operated by us and can be an example for other places to develop and to mature- Jacenia Desmoulin, Giinawind Art Collective 

Murray says the Earthling Collective was born out of a lack of things to do for youth that are in the transitional period of aging out of programs.

He says going through those programs himself and seeing his friends go through that, he decided to create it in their honour.

Community members gather at Giinawind for the drum night social that happens on Thursdays. (Jasmine Kabatay/CBC)

"I just wanted to make sure that we could see a place where people going through that transitional period would have some mentorship and actual skills and be able to make something tangible and have something to believe in over that course, where they're really trying to figure out what they're doing with their life," said Murray.

Like Desmoulin, Murray says having a safe space like Giinawind is important and provides a place for people to access their cultural needs and is a place that can provide healing.

Drumming as medicine 

Fawn Meshake is an example of the art collective already showing that it is doing just that.

She was at a drum night social and sang along with the drummers.

"There's a lot of medicine that comes with that drum. And having everybody come here shows that they need that support. They need to hear the power of music; they need to hear the beat of the drum," said Meshake.

She says being around the drum and singing felt great and she's looking forward to more drum night socials and more events.

"I feel great. It touches my heart, honestly, to have a safe space and support that we don't have to go to some random gym or some random centre for something … she has space here."

Desmoulin says the space is welcoming for everyone, and anyone can become part of the collective and even use the space if needed.

It's something her and Murray would like to extend to the community and people interested can inquire on their website and Facebook page.