Weyburn Comprehensive School (WCS) held a special assembly Friday afternoon in the Cugnet Centre, to unveil an incredible art piece for their school.
Commissioned by Fine Artist Brianna LaPlante, the event was almost a year in the making. In the spring of 2022, WCS's Senior Student Representative Council (SRC), applied for the Horizon's grant, a monetary grant that they were successful in receiving, which could be put towards leadership and legacy projects within their school.
As a SRC group, they decided that they would like their leadership legacy to be a commissioned Treaty Four art piece, designed and created by an Indigenous artist. Their South East Cornerstone Public School Division (SECPSD) Instructional Coach for Indigenous and Treaty Education, Raquel Oberkirsch, connected them with LaPlante.
Subsequently, LaPlante facilitated a paint night, where SRC members, advisors, and staff members painted alongside LaPlante, and shared their visions for the commissioned art piece.
LaPlante then took those ideas and combined them with her own inspiration, and incorporated them into the final product, which took many months to complete.
After the unveiling, Amos McArthur, Community Education Liaison for Arcola School, led everyone in a traditional smudging ceremony for the new art piece.
A fourth-year Fine Artist from Fishing Lake First Nation, LaPlante will finish her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA) at the First Nations University of Canada this spring. She is an Anishinaabe/Nehiyaw/Michif creator, and her work is innovative and spiritually driven, while representing the intersections of life from an Indigenous woman's perspective.
She explained that she's an artist through and through, that's her job, her passion, and her responsibility. As well, she touched on how this project came to be.
"I remember driving home with my partner Keegan, and I remember specifically Amos kind of suggesting this project that Raquel has been a major hand in, and so I want to pay a very deep respect to Amos and Raquel, for setting this up and connecting me to this, not distant community but, this extended community, of Weyburn Comprehensive School.”
She said that she started dialing down which animals she wanted to represent according to the animals that the students felt connected to.
"I tried to include everything. The one thing that I didn't get to include is florals. But with it being kind of a springtime painting, I did want to include that growth and that connectedness of the green lines and everything kind of coming back to life."
"When you read it from left to right," LaPlante explained, "you kind of see a narrative of past to future and with us, the viewers, being in the present, the left side is paying homage to the grandmothers, the grandfathers, the ancestral spirits. The star story is one of our oldest teachers, and then the Buffalo, just like us as a Buffalo nation or like as Plains people, where those baseline teachings came from."
"Then when you come to look to the right side, you see the iron Buffalo where the Buffalo is still present but in a new way. Instead of continuing the star story, I wanted to leave some up to the imagination of the students and also having to bring in more teachers or encourage to bring in more knowledge keepers and elders to teach the rest of the teachings within that star story. "
She added that community represents life to her, and so the honeycombs and bees are community symbols where everyone is connected but play their own roles.
LaPlante shared that she wanted to indigenize the imagery in order to make it land-centric instead of political-centric. "When you hear Treaty Four, you kind of associate it with the politics of the time it was signed, and that was the importance of changing it into a springtime painting rather than a fall-time painting."
The artwork will be hung in the overhead entrance to the north side Commons door. It will remain there permanently for viewing by students, the community and guests.