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Villa Rosa students craft Arctic art piece

February 2, 2024
WSD - Villa Rosa - Inuksuk - Spotlight

Villa Rosa students created an Inuit-inspired art installation to communicate a sense of culture and community. 

Located on Wolseley Avenue, Villa Rosa provides lodging and care to pregnant and postnatal persons, including education through Winnipeg School Division’s Interdivisional Student Services. The support centre’s current residents range from teenagers to adults in their mid-30s. 

Last winter, Villa Rosa residents painted four benches in Indigenous-themed designs for Wolseley Winter Wonderland, a community-led initiative on the frozen Assiniboine River. 

In the spring, art teacher Jennifer Kirkwood came up with the idea of adding an impressive focal point to the project, a dazzling double-sided inuksuk that turns in the wind. 

“Jen had the idea for the engineering behind it, but each student had full ownership about what their piece was going to look like,” said Tara Smith, Villa Rosa Department Head. 

“Keeping with the Indigenous theme, Jen wanted to teach them some new art techniques, so they studied Inuit art and printmaking. They wanted the colours to be like that of the tundra landscape. They also researched the different animals of the landscape and then decided what was going to be on each of their own pieces.”

An inuksuk is a landmark made of piled stones, stacked in the formation of a human figure. Historically, inuksuk would have been used for navigation, to warn of danger, or to mark sacred places or caches of food.  

Villa Rosa resident Martina designed the eagle that sits at the top of the inuksuk. 

“I chose that because my spirit name is Young Spotted Eagle, so I feel connected to the eagle in a way. The eagle represents love,” she said.  

Deana, another Villa Rosa resident, designed multiple parts of the project, including the two foxes playing on the inuksuk’s leg.

“The foxes remind me of when I was pregnant with my daughter. We used to play with each other. She would kick me and I’d poke her back,” Deana said. 

On Jan. 26, Villa Rosa students and staff held a ceremony on the Assiniboine to honour the artwork. Led by Indigenous knowledge keeper Aj’a Oliver, the ceremony included smudging, drumming and singing. 

“It was very empowering for the students to see community members down there admiring their work,” Smith said.

“I feel like I have a connection to the art, so it’s nice that other people can also feel connected to it,” Deana said. 

The inuksuk includes the message “let’s walk together.” Written in Inuktitut, to properly translate the phrase, Kirkwood consulted her brother who lives in Nunavut, where he sought the help of residents. 

“It’s not just let’s walk together on the river trail. In general, let’s walk together,” Smith said. “I think that’s an important message here at Villa Rosa, because every resident comes to us with a different story, but at some point in your journey here, you walk together.” 

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