By Lalaa Comrie
Under a clear blue sky in April, the fifth installment of the Experience Trail Marker Project was unveiled in Stouffville this past Saturday.
The ‘Blue Jay’ or the “Diindiisi” in the Anishinaabe language, made its public debut to a small crowd of 80 art lovers and community members.
The YR Experience Trail Marker project is a collaborative interactive art project designed to reconnect people on the land presently known as York Region through art. The installations have illustrations by Indigenous artist Donald Chrétien, Nipissing First Nation, cultural narrative by Ojibwe Elder Shelley Charles, Georgina Island First Nation and have been commissioned by York Region Arts Council, with program lead by Monica del Rio Pain, YRAC’s Director of Programming and Operations.
The unveiling opened with words from the mayor of the region Iain Lovatt, who shared his excitement about having such a unique piece of art available for the community to enjoy.
But other than the actual art, the true show stopper came from the Indigenous Action Committee who not only shared their thoughts about the art piece but also a song to welcome the piece to the land.
“As an Indigenous resident of York Region, I am extremely proud to see these trail markers that represent our people and our history in a positive way,” says Matt Bergman, President of the Indigenous Action Committee. “It’s nice to finally be acknowledged in a region whose history has so much to do with the Indigenous people.
Artist Donald Chrétien was also present to unveil his piece, which he admitted is one of his favourites from the collection because of the symbolism of the Blue Jay.
“Focused on the legend of the seed spreaders and the pollinators, the trail markers are life-size, interactive designs that invite you to become part of the work,” said artist Donald Chrétien. “I hope people will capture it with a selfie and become a modern-day pollinator by sharing it with their community online.”
Each piece of art, shaped like a large magnifying glass, is meant to draw people into becoming part of the art itself. Currently, there are four other trail markers across York Region, and the goal is to have a marker in each municipality by the end of the year. For more information about the trail markers and the Experience Trail click here. * * *
Lalaa Comrie is an Afro-Caribbean poet, award-winning writer, literacy advocate, book blogger, and host of the Getting Lit Podcast. For over a decade, Lalaa has worked in communications by helping brands create content that is both diverse and inclusive while leveraging the talent of BIPOC creators and storytellers; work she continues at York Region Arts Council.