Artist's story

Melissa's grandmother moved to Canada from Australia in 1953 after she boarded a cargo ship that travelled across the Atlantic with her papa who was a captain for Canada Steamships in the Merchant Navy. Melissa is impacted by the history of artistic work along her family line that descends from Britain. Her great grandmother was an artist who painted china in England. Melissa's Mother, who was also an artist, nurtured her creativity at a young age. For every family event Melissa created handmade cards for each family member and received so many compliments that she decided to share this talent with the world and impact the people around her. 


As a settler of British descent, I am inspired by the artistic practices of my Great Grandmother and Mother. Growing up along the Muskoka River, on unceded Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territories, I have always been inspired by the healing nature of water through its fluid and spontaneous playful motions.


As a self-taught artist and longtime member of Ottawa School of Art, Wild Arts Collective, Muskoka Arts and Crafts, and previously Art Gallery of Burlington, I acknowledge the integral importance of the arts in our communities. Throughout my journey of the arts, I have recognized the significance of creativity, visceral experience, and embodiment in mediating trauma and mental health, as well as communicating critical and decolonial perspectives. In addition to being a student in the Indigenous and Canadian Studies PhD program at Carleton University and doing my Gender Studies Master’s degree at Queens University, I have received formal training in expressive art therapies from The CREATE Institute in Toronto, Ottawa School of Art, and Ryerson University utilizing a range of modalities including film, sound, painting, collage, sculpture and more. 


What intrigues me most is how the arts has and can be used in the classroom, especially when dealing with such heavy topics within the humanities (like slavery, colonialism, racism, sexism). I aim to explore how we can use artistic practice to not only empower voices and engage healing practices, but also break barriers for a more fluid motion of knowledge in and outside of the classroom. How can artistic practice within curation and expressive arts engage and align with Indigenous land-based and anti-racist pedagogies?


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