AFCY Celebrates National Aboriginal Day and the Summer Solstice With Shannon Thunderbird at Bala Avenue Community School

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Toronto, ON. (June 18, 2012): On Thursday, June 21, Arts for Children and Youth (AFCY) will celebrate National Aboriginal Arts Day and the Summer Solstice in collaboration with Bala Avenue Community School and Shannon Thunderbird.

Led by Shannon Thunderbird, a professional musician and Aboriginal arts educator, a total of 252 students from kindergarten, as well as grades 3, 4 and 5 from Bala Avenue Community School have been participating in this AFCY program. The program began on June 7th and will culminate in a Powwow: a Canadian Aboriginal festival, to which the whole school and guests are invited and are welcome to participate.
The ceremony begins at 10.00 a.m. and the Grand Entry is scheduled for 10.30 a.m. at the school located at 6 Bala Avenue. The Grand Entry is scheduled, to begin with, police horse Tecumseh and the Toronto Mounted Police Unit along with Constable Kim Turner from the Divisional Support/Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit, Staff Sergeant Rick Armstrong, and PC’s Bottineau & Leclerc. Veterans, Elders & Dancers, dressed in traditional regalia will also lead in the procession. Shannon Thunderbird will join the Grand Entry, holding the Eagle Staff. Children will have a chance to interact with both horse and rider.

AFCY has a long history of Bala Avenue Community School. “We have led several programs therein native-themed drumming and murals,” says Julie Frost, AFCY’s artistic and executive director. “We had such a success last year when we worked with Shannon Thunderbird for the first time and we were blown away with all she had to share,” says Frost.

The school has a large First Nations population. Having the Aboriginal Arts programs in that venue has allowed the young people to forge new friendships and to make new cultural connections.

Cathy Clark, AFCY’s school program coordinator says: “Shannon believes in closing the gap between generations. That is something that every culture can relate to. She provides leadership at the workshops and encourages the participants. Students wrote the lyrics and she composed the music that goes with it.”

Clark was at the school this week and saw the kids rehearsing in the gymnasium. “The kids were so engaged, and they had such big smiles and such enthusiasm, in spite of the heat!”

It is such collaborations that are the driving force behind AFCY. The aim is to highlight the intersections between art and culture, where children and youth can express themselves and learn about other cultures. “All of AFCY programs offer young people a platform and a safe collaborative environment where they can explore, make inquiries and have their say”, explains Frost.

The Powwow also features drumming, song, non-competitive dance, and storytelling. The celebration will continue with a feast, music, dance; guests from the community have been invited to contribute to the communal feast.

A powwow featuring horses, veterans, elders, flags, song, non-competitive traditional dancers, drumming, and story-telling: Does that not sound like a colorful celebration of culture and art?

This Aboriginal Arts program was made possible with generous funding from the RBC Foundation and a creative collaboration with Shannon Thunderbird and Bala Avenue Community School.

About AFCY:
AFCY is a registered charitable organization. We ally with high priority communities and empower marginalized children and youth by engaging them in hands-on, community and school-based arts education programs that respect existing cultural and community activity, resulting in participatory action and social awareness. To learn more about us, please visit You can email us at or call us at 416-929-9314.


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