Thunder Bay

Telling stories with virtual reality: A travelling workshop stops in Thunder Bay, Ont.

A mobile workshop travelling across northern Ontario stopped in Thunder Bay, Ont. from July 26-29 to give young Indigenous people a chance to learn more about and use virtual reality technologies.

Young Indigenous people get the opportunity to use virtual reality technologies during mobile workshop

Several youth test out a digital drawing program during a mobile workshop on virtual reality in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Logan Turner / CBC)

A mobile workshop travelling across northern Ontario stopped in Thunder Bay, Ont. from July 26-29 to give young Indigenous people a chance to learn more about and use virtual reality technologies.

The workshop was open to all people interested in virtual reality technologies, and gave them the opportunity to incorporate new equipment like 360 degree cameras and digital drawing programs in their own art and storytelling.

Casey Koyczan, one of the Tlicho Dene artists leading the workshop, said this is an opportunity for people in smaller communities to test and be inspired by the possibilities of virtual reality.

"The main goal is to inspire youth and inspire people with this new technology and these different forms of capturing everyday instances, different ways of telling a story, so that we can move forward with the progression of storytelling, especially with some of the smaller communities who may not have had the opportunity to experiment with some of this technology."

Casey Koyczan and a co-facilitator speak about some of the virtual reality technologies that they brought with them as part of their mobile workshop. (Logan Turner / CBC)

Koyczan, who has used virtual reality technologies in his own art and music, added that virtual reality technologies can provide an immersive dimension to both new and old stories.

"Within the experience that we're creating right now, it's an experience that's based on northern myths, legends, stories and visions. These stories have been told in a variety of ways throughout history — mostly orally as a storytelling medium ... But what virtual reality does, is it immerses you within that story so you can feel it. You can live it. You can look around and see all of the things that the story encompasses. So it gives it a more tangible way of understanding."

Casha Adams, one of the co-founders of Biizidun — a youth indigenous arts collective — helped bring the workshop to the city.

Adams said she hopes the workshop can help people create art that can lead to conversations about what it is like to live as an Indigenous person in Thunder Bay.

Casha Adams, co-founder of local youth Indigenous art collective Biizidun, helped bring the mobile workshop on virtual reality to Thunder Bay, Ont. (Logan Turner / CBC)

"Biizidun was made to do this. It was made to bring youth together — people together — in order to educate. Doing it through art is so important because you get to express yourself and you get to see others express themselves. I think that's beautiful."

Adams added that she has never used a 360 camera before, but she had some ideas about what she wanted to try with the equipment.

"I'm Indigenous. I'm a fancy shawl dancer, so I think it would be cool to get some shots of me dancing, especially because I spin a lot. It would be nice to see what that would look like with a 360 camera."

The mobile workshops began in Sioux Lookout, Ont. on July 21 and finishes up in Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation) on July 31.