Dene artist Carla Rae Taylor joined a Yellowknife school this week to help students plan a mural they will paint in the new year.
William McDonald Middle School students in grades 6 to 8 have been priming aluminum boards ahead of painting in January, with the goal of completing the mural in February.
They hope to mount the mural on the school’s exterior in the spring.
Taylor has spent five years creating murals at Edmonton train stations as part of a project called Paint the Rails. Other murals to which she has contributed include one above the 50-50 mall in Yellowknife.
Working with students this week brought her full circle, she said – she attended the school as a child.
“It’s been amazing to work with these kids,” Taylor told Cabin Radio.
“They’re great workers, there’s a variety of interests between them, and they have some great ideas for images that they’d like to put in the mural.”
An Elder told the children stories about the landscape and people in the North, after which students were asked by Taylor to draw images representing what they learned. Drawings included the northern lights, animals and Indigenous traditions.
“I love the creativity that comes with the students. They’re at a good age where they’re still open to creating without too much self-criticism,” said Taylor.
“Sometimes they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not perfect.’ But it’s not about being perfect, it’s about going through the process of creating the mural and brainstorming together.”
Taylor will be back in January to help students paint their ideas on the mural board and add detail to the work.
“I grew up here and I have Dene roots, and I’ve been really honoured to be able to sit with various Elders of different Indigenous nations,” recalled Taylor.
“They’ve shared wisdom, knowledge and teachings with me and, as an artist and a collector of knowledge and wisdom, it’s really an honour to be here with these students, creating this mural.”