In September 2017, students and staff created a club called the GLC or ‘Global Leadership Club’. Part of the club’s mandate was to maintain its responsibilities as the first Fair Trade School in Calgary and another part was to promote Truth and Reconciliation through an interactive bench. Student teacher Alex Der led an inspiring lesson that had students learn about the legacy of residential schools and had students compose original songs that reflected their impact.
Stefan Rasporich and resident Métis artist Lori Kearney, a team of artist and teacher, led students in refurbishing a student-donated bench to house the individual tiles that students painted following the Project of Heart’s method. Stefan designed the bench so that it would show both sides of the tile in plexiglass and metal channels, as both sides of the tile communicated important information and artwork. He further developed an interactive element where original songs could be listened to on smartphones by scanning coded tiles. The bench materials were supplied with funds from the Werklund School of Education Youth Forum at the University of Calgary.
‘Happy Place’ was a song composed by students under Alex Der’s instruction and recorded at Audio House, where CAA’s sound engineer led these talented students in further developing their skills as music artists. The bench was presented at the BMO Amphitheatre on the Stampede grounds situated between Elbow River Camp (formerly Indian Village) and Calgary Arts Academy’s Education Centre, along with a public performance of the recorded song to recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Our goal with this bench is for it to become a living sculpture where people from all walks of life can sit and have a conversation, listen to original music that explores the legacy of residential schools and learn about our collective history. This was an act of Reconciliation following the 92 calls to action, and our next phase is to write letters to elder survivors to let them know about the tiles, the project, and share our art and music created to honour them.