Young residents from the Lac Écho rehabilitation centre for Anglophone youth painted a mural for one of the classrooms at the West Island Centre in late December. Residents and teachers had the privilege of welcoming painter and muralist Yannick Picard who led the project.
Before the year-end holidays, teachers from the Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier schoolboard who teach Anglophone youth at Portage came up with a project to paint a mural in a windowless classroom located in the school basement. The teachers decided to apply to the Culture in the Schools program which allows students to work on a project with the help of artists, writers and cultural organizations at a reduced cost.
Muralist and globe-trotter Yannick Picard spent three days working on a mural designed to evoke a window opening on a world of hope. Students were asked to create drawings that were subsequently gathered by the Québec artist and integrated into his mural design. Yannick Picard and the young residents traced the outlines of the mural that goes from subdued gray tones to a depiction of a vividly coloured window.
The mural illustrates the young residents’ journey through Portage. By the time they start their rehabilitation program, they’ve gone through some tough times, are weighed down by drug use and often estranged from their family. The Portage program helps them rediscover a healthy lifestyle and resume the studies they so often give up when taking drugs. By the time they leave the program, a brighter future awaits them; a window has opened on a world of hope.
Mylène, a secondary school teacher with the Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier schoolboard, has been teaching at Portage for several years. She explains that “the residents were really motivated by the mural project. Several of them initially found it hard to paint on a wall, but once the mural was finished, they were very proud of their work.”
There are new school projects every year at Portage. Last year, residents joined in a nearly ten-week djembe course that ended with a very successful performance. A poet and a Gumboots dancer entertained the youth with words and dance, and a visit from a comic strip artist as well as another djembe workshop are in the works.
School at Portage goes beyond the basic and essential academics program to open a window on the vast and wonderful world of culture.