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ELAN’s ArtEd Program: March Magic – The Power of the Word

“The first thing I learned was about artists’ stories, and the second thing I learned was to never give up.”
Student: hip-hop music workshop participant at Jimmy Sandy Memorial School


The ACE Board at Jimmy Sandy Memorial School. Photo by Tina Vibert

During February, we celebrated ACE – Arts, Community & Education – project successes with the first two stories of 2019-20 from two very different high schools, one small and remote, and the other large and urban. In Kawawachikamach, a hip-hop concert showcased music written by students in their first ACE project experience, while in Laval a new library collection initiated by a 2018-19 ACE project was launched.

Jimmy Sandy Memorial School is located in a remote northern community, on the Naskapi territory of Kawawachikamach, with no roads connecting it to the rest of Quebec. Tina Vibert, Project Coordinator, teacher, and art education specialist orchestrated ELAN ArtEd’s ACE project to bring Artist Brandon Hecht and the band Violent Ground from Montreal to Jimmy Sandy to create original music with students.

 Jonavan rocking the stage with Violent Ground and Brandon Hecht.
Photo by Carlos Guerra. 


In concert with Brandon Hecht, Violent Ground, and the students at Jimmy Sandy Memorial School. Photo by Carlos Guerra.


Concert in Kawawachikamach of the student’s hip-hop. Photo by Carlos Guerra.

The project is named “ Iyimuuune”, (Imuune for short), the Naskapi for ‘word’Imuune denotes the power of words, and the power of sharing those words. Brandon Hecht is a musician and the CEO of Makeway Studios, a sound engineering and Hip Hop recording studio in Montreal. He collaborated with the Indigenous hip-hop band Violent Ground, who live in Montreal and perform across Canada, and are local to Kawawachikamach, from the Naskapi Innu Nation.   

Learning the technical side of music making with Violent Ground. Photo by Tina Vibert.

Brandon and the members of Violent Ground worked with over 65 students from grade 6 to grade 11, coaching them on how to take their thoughts and life experiences and turn them into song. Students wrote the lyrics, learned how to make beats, record, and those interested performed at the final concert with Brandon and Violent Ground, cheered on by the community.    

Violent Ground hip-hop members and Brandon Hecht (second from left)  speak to students.
Photo by Tina Vibert. 

The Artists guided the students through every stage of creation and production, helping mold their stories into the bars and stanzas of their beats. The students pushed past initial shyness and learned about cultural identity, self confidence, and mental health.  The project integrated the school’s curriculum with Hip Hop as the driving force of expression. They also learned about digital technology, tools behind music making, the music industry, and various career possibilities. After the celebratory concert, one student wrote, “It made me believe we can do anything if we believe in ourselves“, and another asserted, “You can go far even if you are from a small town.”  

Film director Carlos Guerra joined the project to create a new Violent Ground music video showcasing the Naskapi territory and featuring some of the students. Carlos and some students also documented the project, supported by an Artists Inspire Grant.  Please watch for it and a longer feature story about this amazing ACE project to be shared online. Thank you Tina Vibert and Brandon Hecht for helping us capture this amazing story of Arts, Education, and Community!




The magical power of the word will also be celebrated in Laval, on February 20th at Laval Senior Academy.  Artist Deanna Smith is the guest speaker for the [WURD]up event, presented in part by The Learning Exchange, to launch the Ile-Ife Africana Studies Collection. This curated set of books emphasizes the importance and impact of representation, providing much needed insights into black history.  

The Ile-Ife Africana Studies Collection was sparked by Deanna’s involvement in Laval Senior Academy’s 2018-29 ACE project through spoken word/slam workshops. Deanna is passionate about encouraging exploration of the works of minority and often marginalized writers when working with students.  The impact of the original ACE project has carried through into the community. The City of Laval and Laval municipal libraries have committed to mirror the collection so that the books are available to everyone!

Deanna is enthusiastic about ELAN’s role. “It’s wonderful to feel so supported by ELAN and freed up to do more than I could usually do. ELAN ArtEd was helpful in developing my pedagogy and the impact I could make, making it possible to work  with multiple teachers and more students.” Deanna is currently working with Good Shepherd Elementary School on another ACE project, guiding Grade 6 students to express themselves through spoken word and at Heritage Regional High School, in partnership with Jason Selman, to explore poetry with students with funding from our ArtistsInspire Grants and our youth mental health support project with the Community Health & Social Services Network (CHSSN). More on these stories soon.

Deanna Smith, spoken word/slam Poet

ELAN’s ArtEd Program was developed to support qualified Quebec Artists to Connect with schools, to create niches for developing creativity, and exploring identity and culture with students and teachers. We are grateful for support from the Government of Canada’s Department of Canadian Heritage, Quebec’s Secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, and the CHSSN for projects supporting youth mental health. Experienced Artists who might otherwise not be able to access art facilitation experiences, are benefitting from ELAN’s ArtEd program support and funding to follow their passion for developing the creativity and wellbeing of students.

Follow @ELANArtEd to hear more about the magic that the arts are bringing into the lives of teachers, students, and their communities!