For Monique (Mo) Aura Bedard, all aspects of art has influenced them. From Oneida Nation of the Thames, they grew up just outside of Aamjiwnaang First Nation, away from Oneida and call themselves an “art maker” instead of an “artist”.
“I used to call myself an artist, but I find that that kind of narrows me into one practice, whereas I want to do a whole bunch of things,” said Bedard.
Bedard has always been into art, and in high school started selling their art to raise money to help kids with art classes because that’s what they were passionate about and cared about.
Bedard also worked at an art gallery for a while, teaching art classes as an assistant teacher. They found while working there they were gravitating towards children who were seen as problem children or difficult.
“I didn’t see that it was difficult. They just needed a little bit extra support, so I focused on that and I found that was my passion. That’s what I got excited about and that’s what I loved doing,” said Bedard.
From then on, they wanted to know if there was a way they could use their art to support young people specifically and found the career of art therapy.
“Art was a way to share that and escape my world as I knew it, which had a lot of trauma. For me, art became a way of healing.”
After high school, Bedard went to college for a three-year fine art diploma and, because there is a direct transfer with different schools, went to the University of Lethbridge for a year.
They eventually moved back to southern Ontario where they took a year off and applied to art therapy school, which they attended in Toronto at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute.
Bedard started working in community and was doing individual art therapy with youth, adults, and children. It was there that they found they really loved working with youth and that’s been their passion ever since.
Eventually, Bedard started their own program called “Our Stories, Our Truths”, which is a youth artist healing transformation mentorship program where they pair urban Indigenous youth with mentors in the city.
“It’s just a wild journey, and I can fully say that I have accomplished my dreams of doing my own art and then also supporting youth and young people to follow their passions and dreams too,” said Bedard.
It hasn’t been easy to get where they are now. Bedard says some of the biggest obstacles for them has been their mental health, which has been a challenge their whole life, and the journey of self and really “understanding themselves.”
They have been in counseling for years, and says a huge thing for them to overcome challenges is learning about themselves and learning how to cope differently, which has been “life-changing.”
Bedard says for them, it was finding that person who was right for them and has changed counselors multiple times because “if it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right.”
“You’re not going to grow. You’re not going to get anywhere. It could actually be even more damaging, so I think just listening to yourself with that is really important,” said Bedard.
If there was anything they could tell their younger self, is that it’s okay to be yourself and to say what you think.
“Chances are the things that you need to say, people need to hear and other people might be thinking, so your voice matters. Do what you love, dress how you want, and if people don’t like you for any of that, then they’re not meant to be in your life.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
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