The Town of Newmarket unveiled "Gijigijigaaneshinh" (or Chickadee), a new trail marker and public art piece at Fairy Lake Park as part of the The York Region Experience Trail Marker Project. The artwork features an illustration of a chickadee by local Indigenous artist Donald Chrétien, Nipissing First Nation; and a cultural narrative on the reverse side by Ojibwe Elder Shelley Charles, Georgina Island First Nation, which explains the Indigenous significance of the chickadee as a local seed spreader/pollinator.
The trail marker project is a regional interactive art initiative, led by the York Region Arts Council, that is designed to re-connect people on the land presently known as York Region through art. This art piece is designed to invite the observer to be part of the art, be part of the story and to re-connect through photos, art and storytelling. Each trail marker across York Region features an illustration of a local pollinator or seed spreader: Georgina (moth), Vaughan (hummingbird), Aurora (bee and firefly), King Township (butterfly) and Whitchurch-Stouffville (blue jay).
"I am honoured to unveil Newmarket's newest public art piece, The Chickadee, which serves as a tribute to Indigenous history and our vital pollinators," says Mayor John Taylor. "We're grateful to have a talented local artist, Donald Chrétien, to tell meaningful stories through art in a way that connects communities and sparks conversation."
The unveiling honours National Indigenous History Month (June) and Pollinator Week (June 19 to 25) although the artwork will be a daily reminder to celebrate Indigenous art and culture throughout the year. Donald Chrétien's series encompasses his Ojibwe learnings celebrating the seed spreaders and pollinators of Mother Earth. "Gijigijigaaneshinh" is the local Ojibwe language word for the chickadee family of birds in the Great Lakes Region. Pollinator Week is a time to recognize the importance of pollinators and their role in ensuring healthy ecosystems and agriculture.
"Most of the images in this series are from the forest," Mr. Chretien said. "I love the forest – as you walk in the forest, you become aware of the re-emerging patterns and connections. I've learned as an artist to view the world with eyes wide open. I'm hoping people will approach this trail with that in mind – go with eyes wide open and experience the works and the locations where they are. I hope these works will help them feel like exploring and discovering – to spread excitement and pollinate some goodness."
Fairy Lake Park is home to other public art pieces that also celebrate Indigenous history and art such as the 10 trail marker totems along the Tom Taylor Trail and the Trading Post mural and canoe frame seen along Water Street. The location of Fairy Lake Park was chosen for this artwork due to its Indigenous history, proximity to other public art pieces that celebrate the history, as well as its proximity to the pollinator garden that was built in 2019.
About artist Donald Chrétien
Don was raised in North Bay, Ontario near Nipissing First Nation. On these lands he acquired a deep understanding and love for the forests and wildlife of Northern Ontario. These childhood experiences have been fueling his imagination ever since. After graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in 1985, Don worked as a commercial artist and designer for many national and international businesses. Don was a long-time Newmarket resident and some of his other work can be seen throughout the town with the 10 totems he created along Tom Taylor Trail.
About Shelley Charles
Shelley Charles, Elder of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation is a member of the fish clan, Muskinozhe Giigohn, and earned a Master's of Indigenous Philosophy from Seven Generations Education Institute in Fort Frances, Ontario. Shelley works with corporations and Indigenous consultants across Canada as an Advisor and in community engagement teaching Indigenous worldview, culture and language from an Ojibwe Anishinaabe perspective.
About York Region Arts Council
The York Region Arts Council (YRAC) is a York Region-wide nonprofit charitable arts service organization focused on capacity building, creative placemaking and community engagement in support of artists, arts organizations and creative entrepreneurs. YRAC acknowledges the support for this project which was funded in part by FedDev Ontario, Ontario Arts Council, Central Counties Tourism.
See The Chickadee at Fairy Lake Park (520 Water Street). You can learn more about the project, including other trail marker designs and locations, at experienceyorkregion.com/experience-trail.
Take photos with The Chickadee and share your experience on the Experience Trail with #ExperienceYR. Tag @TownofNewmarket and #MyNewmarket for a chance to be featured on the Town's social media channels.