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Using art to build bridges between cultures

Finding Our Common Stories a cross-culture, collaborative project.
harmonyjohnsonharder
Harmony Johnson-Harder, a Prince Albert-based artist, will lead the Finding Common Stories art project.

SASKATOON — Harmony Johnson-Harder is using art to build bridges. 

The Prince Albert-based artist, from Montreal Lake Cree Nation, found a surprising statistic about her hometown – according to a 2021 Statistics Canada census, almost half of the population of Prince Albert is either Indigenous or immigrants. But, there are very few bridges found between these communities, she said. 

“Maybe there are some, but I’m not seeing many opportunities to bring these people together – in building a community, we have to visit first,” said Johnson-Harder. 

“I want to help enhance our story together, and create something that will build a strong community.”

With the support of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and collaborator Jesse Campbell, Johnson-Harder is creating the cross-cultural, collaborative art project, Finding our Common Stories.

She will bring Indigenous, settler, and newcomer women together to share stories that will eventually be translated into an art project. 

“Art interprets things we can’t put into words,” said Johnson-Harder. “To come together and bring our stories, we can create those connections, learn to relate to each other, and learn to work together. (My hope) is that we create something that will leave a legacy.”

From May 28 to June 13, women of all ages and backgrounds, with no artistic experience required, are invited to come to the Margo Fournier Arts Centre and add their story and identity to this collective art project. 

The first two sessions focused on sharing stories and discovering commonalities. Followed by four sessions, the art project will be created, determined by what comes out of those conversations. 

Johnson-Harder said the art piece could be anything from a large mural to small tiles designed by individuals. The most important thing is that it’s guided through the connections these women make with one another. 

“With the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women tragedy, I want us also to focus on women who are here, who have knowledge, so we can see each other in a stronger light, as opposed to being victims,” she said. 

Additionally, Johnson-Harder said newcomers are some of the most vulnerable groups in the province. She hopes to create cross-cultural connections based on essential parts of motherhood and womanhood. 

“I want conversations about what it means to be an Indigenous woman, what it means to be a newcomer, ways we can relate to each other, from child-rearing to grand-parenting. Stories of where we come from, how our faith and culture influences our lives,” she said. 

“Let’s start dropping some seeds and see how things grow.”

Those interested in participating can email Harmony at [email protected], or attend one of the following workshops at the Margo Fournier Arts Centre.