ART AS RECONCILIATION

At the heart of First Light’s new Centre for Performance and Creativity is the idea that art is a universal language.

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“Art transcends our spoken word, transcends our individual cultures,” says Jenelle Duval,
First Light Events Coordinator. “When we are trying to work through shared histories that are hard to revisit, art is a platform that allows us to express history and healing in a way that can be received by people of all heritages.”

With its focus on art, the new centre has also become a bridge to foster reconciliation efforts in the province. In addition to providing programs and services for urban and non-urban Indigenous communities across NL, the non-profit organization
regularly invites non-Indigenous citizens to participate in its many festivals and events.
“The centre opens up space for art and healing to happen,” says Duval. “Whether that be performance art, visual art, or traditional crafts, we make these things inclusive for all peoples. Indigenous and non-Indigenous can come together, on our journey towards reconciliation.”

The new performance space became a reality through a unique partnership with Cochrane Street United Church. As a result of this partnership, the church can continue to run their weekly services and other operations, while First Light operates a beautiful performance and programming space. A significant federal investment in the project has kick-started the necessary renovations to upgrade the space to a state-of-the-art performance centre.

“It has been good for the community as a whole,” says Breannah Tulk, Director of
Business Operations at First Light. “It is a beautiful cornerstone of the downtown community, something that reflects diversity and culture. It’s a hive of activity.”
Duval believes it is important that non-Indigenous Newfoundlanders and Labradorians
feel welcome to participate in Indigenous events, and this partnership is just one of
many things First Light is doing to encourage this relationship.

This Fall, the organization is holding their Spirit Song Festival, an Indigenous-led performance arts festival with events at the Arts and Culture Centre, the First Light Centre for Performance and Creativity, Eastern Edge,  and the Rockhouse. It will offer workshops in, amongst other things, throat singing, sweetgrass basket making, and Kojua dance.

All of these events and workshops are open to the public, with many events free of
charge and open to all ages.

“Art really brings visibility to urban Indigenous populations,” Duval adds. “We’re
continuing to work towards making the urban population visible, and art is a great
way to do that.”

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