Furniture students collaborate with Indigenous community in Thunder Bay

A group of Sheridan students and faculty walking in the snow in Thunder Bay. A large hill and trees are in the background.

In January, a group of our third-year Furniture students and faculty from the Bachelor of Craft and Design program traveled to Thunder Bay for a new studio project. This project is a unique collaboration with the Thunder Bay Indigenous community for the design and fabrication of furniture for the Indigenous Knowledge Centre located in the Brodie Branch of the Thunder Bay Library, a historic Carnegie Library built in 1911.

Connie Chisholm, Codesign founder, and part-time Furniture Studio faculty developed the proposal for the project together with Furniture Studio Head, Peter Fleming. Codesign facilitates projects between post-secondary design students and marginalized communities that result in tangible outcomes for the shared spaces of the partnering community. Thunder Bay Library Indigenous librarians Samantha Bird and Robyn Medicine are instrumental in developing a strong relationship with the local Indigenous artists and community members who are collaborating with the students in developing guiding principles for the design of the furniture pieces.

During the trip, students Gwynne Allanford, Kunwarbir Aneja, Audrey Assad, Brendan Boers, Caitlynn Bosko, Joshua Bradbury, Isabel Catalli, David Lewis, Bradley Payne, and Jordan Poirier had a unique opportunity to snowshoe with some of the Indigenous participants to Animikii-waajiw (Mount McKay, an important spiritual site for the local Indigenous population). During their two day visit to Thunder Bay, they also participated in a smudge ceremony and listened to stories and prayers from elder Paul Cheesequay. Visiting the Brodie Library site allowed the students to learn more about the community, to brainstorm design ideas with local participants, and to develop floor plans for the project.

The design and development process will continue in their classrooms and the Furniture studio. In February, the students will travel back to Thunder Bay to present their design proposals. Once approved, students will build the furniture and donate it to the library for installation in June. The project was made possible by generous support from the Thunder Bay Library, The Metcalf Foundation, FAAD, and the Sheridan Experiential Bursary Fund.

We are incredibly proud of our faculty, Connie and Peter, who have developed this project and will mentor our talented students to its completion.

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