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Mural project bridges culture gap

by Isabel Mosseler


A striking art project is underway in Sturgeon Falls. École secondaire publique Northern and Northern Secondary School have their art students working together under the aegis of their Native Artist in Residence, Dan Commanda, on a very substantial and inspiring piece that will grace the school’s foyer for years to come.

Commanda is a member of Nipissing First Nation and regularly works in schools. “I’ve been doing other projects in the schools with Native Cultural Arts,” he says. “We did fish scale art, beading, moccasin making. I work with schools from Parry Sound to Bracebridge, Mattawa, Sturgeon Falls, North Bay, all the schools in that catchment area.” This particular project is a spectacular seven-panel mural painted in acrylic on canvas, in vibrant colours reminiscent of Woodland style, outlining various teachings derived from local Anishinabe knowledge. Once completed, the mural will be mounted in the foyer of the school that is shared by both the French and English public boards (Conseil scolaire public du Nord-Est de l’Ontario (CSPNE) and the Near North District School Board). The school also serves a significant Native population.

Tammy McMeekin holds is responsible for promotion of the First Nation, Métis, Inuit culture among CSPNE schools. She is thrilled about the collaborative effort unfolding at Northern. “Mr. Commanda did the Seven Grandfather Teachings two weeks ago. They did [the painting] based on the Creation story. He brought them to the history… That’s how he got inspired, what he could see was going on in the school, what he could see was going to go up. Once it goes up. it will be a mural, and one panel links into the next. Everything has a purpose.”

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Near North District School Board Artist in Residence, Dan Commanda of Nipissing First Nation, is shown here working with vibrant colours on a seven panel mural which will grace the entrance foyer of École secondaire publique Northern and Northern Secondary School. Students of both schools worked together on this project with Commanda, while also receiving cultural teachings relevant to the painting.