“Maybe we can ask these young people to run the country. I think they would do a better job of it.”
In March 2017, our Kent County NB chapter of the Council of Canadians made a call out to children and youth in our region, asking for art to celebrate the upcoming Earth Day. Some of the young artists who responded used “Earth Day” as their topic.
One of our hopes is that the opportunity to take part in our exhibit would give teachers a straight-forward way to engage their students in thinking about our environment. Some were delighted to be asked! In all we had 169 individual and group entries in our show. The teacher of the Grade One class at l’école Marée Montante in Saint-Louis-de-Kent used the theme J’♥ la Terre with her students:
Our area is deeply interwoven with streams, rivers, wetlands, ponds and of course the shore. The water helps sustain many families, even by “recreational” fishing. Not surprisingly, especially with the recent defence our communities mounted to stop deep shale hydraulic fracking here, quite a few of the entries focussed on The Water. Some of the artists did projects on species at risk. Others produced dramatic statements with their imagery or words. Some emphasized the importance of water. Without water, we do not have life on our planet.
Four of the artists just wanted us to Save Earth, and here concern about fracking is mentioned specifically:
Here we see a wide range of current environmental issues on the minds and in the hearts of our young people, expressed deeply and beautifully:
Two of our entries were about protecting the bees:
Some of the artists highlighted The Trees:
Recycling is another theme that the artists worked with — and they also addressed just doing something as simple as picking up garbage:
We offered six prizes for participation. All names were thrown into a hat. Three of the prizes were donated, and three came from our chapters’ piggy-bank. Six community leaders were invited to draw the names for the prizes. Shown below are five of them. Not shown is the principal of Bonar Law High School, who drew the sixth prize name.
From left to right below you can see Robert Francis (Counciller, Elsipogtog First Nation), Roger Doiron (le Maire de Richibucto), Randy Warman (Mayor of Rexton), Armin Arend (Chair of the Weldford Local Service District). In the bottom right photo you see Kevin Augustine (member of Kopit Lodge at Elsipogtog), with two chapter volunteers.
It was really exciting for us to bring together these community leaders, some of whom have never met, even though they leave right “next door” in a rural sense. Colonialism has left deep divides between the founding Peoples of our region. Although the determination to stop fracking here united almost everyone for all three founding cultures and newcomers as well, some are settling into their own silos now that this immediate threat is not so oppressive. So, to have these leaders come together to celebrate Earth Day with us — and spend a bit of time talking with each other — was terrific!
Just for the fun of it, here are some grouped shots of the art as it was hung on the walls in the room at the community centre. We had so many entries we could not even fit in the ones from Bonar Law High School, although their work is included in this show, and a special prize was added to thank them for participation.
Back to the artwork, several of the artists submitted work on one-of-a-kind themes:
In case you did not catch some of the fine print, alongside some outstanding creations there is a plea for a return to animal-powered farming and a dire warning about having to live under a dome if we do not take care of our planet.
The attendance was terrific. We did not count visitors but we did see several rushes, and we also had people coming in before the start time and for two hours straight! We certainly did not get enough photos of the attendees — nor their contact info, a big mistake for a group like ours. But hey, this was our first time and we had no idea how much response there would be. When we do it again, we will use a guest book for sure!
An undertaking like this is not possible without volunteers. Hip, hip, hooray! for the hours and dedication from our chapter’s co-leads on this project, Debbie Hopper and Denise Melanson. Also helping were borrowed hands Louise Melanson and Judy McKie from Fredericton, and chapter stalwarts Nancy Alcox and Ann Pohl.
Where did all the greenery come from? Yes there was still snow on the ground when we did this exhibit. A community member donated 50 oak seedlings to be shared with participants and viewers.
Here are the winning participants (one is a class, and one was a pair of kids working together) :
Wanting to leave the sharing of this wonderful undertaking on the highest note possible, here are a few remaining artists celebrating the beauty of our planetary home:
One class group wrote a song that played with a powerpoint,
and we are trying to get that up on here too.
Some people critique Earth Day as meaningless, but for us in our community, it was a great initiative to bring people together across cultural and community boundaries, and to stimulate reflection on environmentalism among teachers, students and parents. Every little bit of awareness helps. In really rural areas, like much of Kent County, there are few opportunities like this for gentle, positive discussion about our current environmental crisis. Let the kids lead us! Next year we hope to do it again.