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Thursday, 11 February 2016 07:06

Welcome Centre to use student artworks to celebrate diversity

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The unveiling of the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre's Wall of Diversity took place in Swift Current, Feb. 5. From left to right, back row: Newcomer Welcome Centre Settlement Worker in Schools Lisa Byers, Southwest District for Culture, Recreation and Sport  Community Development Coordinator Anne Weisgerber, and Welcome Centre Executive Director Icasiana de Gala. Front row, students Kassidy Silbernagel, Caitlin Baes and Tim Roin. Absent is student Jemmie Ponting. The unveiling of the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre's Wall of Diversity took place in Swift Current, Feb. 5. From left to right, back row: Newcomer Welcome Centre Settlement Worker in Schools Lisa Byers, Southwest District for Culture, Recreation and Sport Community Development Coordinator Anne Weisgerber, and Welcome Centre Executive Director Icasiana de Gala. Front row, students Kassidy Silbernagel, Caitlin Baes and Tim Roin. Absent is student Jemmie Ponting. Matthew Liebenberg

The creativity of four students will help the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre to celebrate diversity and multiculturalism across southwest Saskatchewan.


The unveiling of the artworks and the Newcomer Welcome Centre's Wall of Diversity took place in Swift Current on Feb. 5.
The artworks were used to create the Wall of Diversity, which consists of two large mobile banners that can be displayed at different events and activities.
The four participating students are Caitlin Baes, Jemmie Ponting, Tim Roin and Kassidy Silbernagel. The artworks represent each student's interpretation of a multicultural and diverse community.
Baes, who came to Swift Current from the Phillipines in December 2014, painted four faces representing different ethnic backgrounds. The faces are shaped as pieces of a puzzle with the earth in the background.
“I was trying to tell people that we’re all equal and connected, like a puzzle,” she said. “It means even though we have different skin colours, hair, attitudes, personality, cultures, religion, we’re all on the same earth. We live together and we need to coexist with each other because if we help each other we can make the whole world balanced perfect.”
She was excited to be part of the project and to use her art to tell others that diversity and multiculturalism are important.
“I think the Welcome Centre did a really good job in doing this kind of project,” she said. “It shows the people that we are all equal and basically there’s diversity here.”
Kassidy Silbernagel, who is a Grade 11 student at Mankota School, is doing a workplace experience term at the Newcomer Welcome Centre.
“I was at work one day and they asked if I would do it,” she said. “I was a little unsure at first, but I did it and it was really cool.”
Her artwork shows flowers growing in a garden. The flower bed is painted in the colours of the Canadian flag and each flower petal represents the flag of a different country.
“The petals all have flags on it,” she said. “So it’s growing through Canada, it’s growing with Canada, all the different cultures.”
Grade 8 student Tim Roin, who arrived about seven months ago in Swift Current from the Ukraine, created an artwork depicting people from different cultural backgrounds meeting across continents while exchanging smiles and greetings.
Grade 10 student Jemmie Ponting's artwork depicts a tree of diversity with the faces of people from different cultural backgrounds among the tree branches.
The Wall of Diversity project is a partnership between the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre and the Southwest District for Culture, Recreation and Sport.
Anne Weisgerber, the community development coordinator for the Southwest District for Culture, Recreation and Sport, said the organization contributed $1,000 towards the project.
“One of our targets this year was to target newcomers because we know that sometimes newcomers struggle to get involved with sport, culture and recreation,” she mentioned. “So we set aside some funding and we talked to the Newcomer Centre here and the Newcomer Centre in Moose Jaw.  ... That whole idea is to get people involved and to get newcomers involved. It’s something to share with other people, so that’s terrific.”
She was already going to use the Wall of Diversity banners the following day in Leader at a wellness fair.
“I’m just really thrilled,” she said. “I think it’s a terrific idea.”
According to Newcomer Welcome Centre Executive Director Icasiana de Gala the banners will be used at the anti-racism youth leadership workshop at Ponteix School on Feb. 24.
The workshop is hosted by the Newcomer Welcome Centre in association with the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan. A similar workshop also took place last year in Swift Current.
The workshop will be attended by over 90 Grade 8-12 students from the area. They will participate in activities to explore identity, intercultural relationships, power, privilege, racism and discrimination.
In 2014 the Newcomer Welcome Centre initiated mural projects in Shaunavon and Frontier to depict the themes of diversity of multiculturalism.
“They came up with two totally different artworks, but the message is there,” she said. “It’s the same with these four artworks. That’s the message we want to relay to people.”
The Wall of Diversity project in Swift Current was initially planned to be a mural, but the Newcomer Welcome Centre was unable to secure a wall in a visible spot at Market Square before the end of summer.
“We did not get the wall that we want and then time ran out,” she said. “You can only do the outside mural during certain periods. ... If we’re given the chance to do it again, we’re hoping to do it around May or June before Market Square.”
The project was therefore adjusted to use artworks by four different students for banners that can be used at different events.
“We have young artists here who did a fantastic job, considering the pressure we put on them,” she said.
She felt the banners will be a very practical way to create more awareness about diversity and multiculturalism in the community.
“It can be brought anywhere,” she said. “The wall would have been more impressive, but this one would reach more people.”
She added that the value of this message will be even more effective because the artworks were created by young people.
“It gives a message that if the youth embraces diversity and multiculturalism, the adults should think we should learn from these kids because they’re in school with a multicultural population,” she said.
The creation of a greater awareness about diversity and multiculturalism will help to promote a feeling of respect and acceptance for everyone in the community.
“The community has been very open to the different cultures and our hope is that parents would tell their children, to be an example to children, that we live in a multicultural community and therefore embrace that and be proud of that,” she said.

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