Advocating for the power of art, education and literacy

When local Cree and Métis artist Aaron Paquette was a young, rebellious teenager in Edmonton, he learned the impact words can have on someone.

“Your words create worlds,” said Paquette, 42, as he recounted how he started to believe a then-abusive family member when they would tell a teenaged Aaron, “You’ll never be anything”. Later in life, Paquette learned that this family member was so horrifically abused as a child that they had never learned to read.

Many years later, this relative learned to read and Paquette knew that they were a changed person. “Words changed their world––both when they were taken away and when they were given back,” said Paquette.

At a recent event hosted by the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education to kick off the Edmonton Peace Festival, Paquette told his story to demonstrate the role education and art can play in reconciliation and peace. Participants at the event took part in storytelling, conversation and “casual art” with Paquette.

The artist, who is also known as an author and public speaker, has a painting in Pembina Hall on North Campus and created the high-profile mural “Stations of Reconciliation (a conversation)” in Edmonton’s Grandin/ Government Centre LRT station.

Aaron Paquette shaking hands with an attendee
“Reconciliation is about personal stories.” - Aaron Paquette
Aaron talking to Secondary Education Chair, Florence Glanfield
“You can’t change the past, but you can change your perception.” - Aaron Paquette
Aaron drawing
“Our job is to bring light when we come from darkness.” - Aaron Paquette

See more photos from “May Peace Prevail on Earth: A Conversation with Aaron Paquette” on the Faculty of Education’s official Facebook page.

Feature image: Aaron Paquette speaks to the audience at a workshop held in the Faculty of Education in September 2016.