For Mo, all aspects of creativity have influenced them and their art practice. They are OnΛyota'a:ka (Oneida) and French-Canadian and grew up just outside of Aamjiwnaang First Nation where they have family as well. They are an artist and visual storyteller.
“I am a multidisciplinary artist which means I create all kinds of things in different mediums.”
Art has been a part of their life since they were a child, and in high school they started an art club, painted murals, and sold their art and used those funds to support youth in having access to after school art workshops. They are passionate about supporting others in connecting to art as a form of self-expression.
Over the summers in their final year of high school and first year of college, they worked at an art gallery as an art instructor’s assistant. While working there, they found themselves working with youth who were often seen as *difficult* (note: no one is difficult - this a box society has built). "They just needed a bit of extra support, so I focused on that during my time there.” said Mo.
From then on, they wanted to know if there was a way for art and creative expression to support young people and their beings - much like they’ve done their whole life. This is where they found the career of art therapy.
“Art has always been a way for me to express myself, it became a way of healing and communicating, when words are hard to access.”
After high school, Mo went to college for a three-year fine art diploma and transferred to the University of Lethbridge to complete their BFA.
They eventually moved back to Ontario where they took a year off to work, then went to Toronto at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute to complete their master’s diploma.
And even though Mo went to college and university, their practice is also community and self taught, as they have been connected to community arts for years.
Eventually, Mo co-created a community arts program called “Our Stories, Our Truths”, which is an art and land-based creative expression program where urban Indigenous youth work with mentors, artists, videographers, storytellers, hide tanners, beaders, tufters, knowledge carriers and muralists.
"I love what we’ve created together and it makes me so happy seeing young folks in the community doing what they love too."
One of the biggest challenges for Mo has been their mental health and intergenerational healing, “it’s a beautifully chaotic and messy process,” says Mo.
They have been attending counseling on and off since high school and more recently, somatic experiencing. Mo says it’s been a huge support for them as they continue to move through their healing. They’ve learned a lot about themselves, their lived experiences and family. It’s helped them be more connected to themselves and to cope differently. Mo says it was hard to find support that was right for them and changed practitioners a few times. “I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work and with the wrong fit, it could have been even more harmful, so I think trusting myself along the way was hard but really important,” said Mo.
If there was anything they could tell their younger self, it would be, “it’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay to change and it’s okay to say what you think and feel. Maybe the things that you need to say, people need to hear and other people are thinking, so don’t be afraid to express yourself; your voice matters.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.