A STEPS PROJECT
From Weeds We Grow 2021
From Weeds We Grow is an interdisciplinary public art project that began in 2020 that encourages exploration of our shared spaces while connecting community members to each other, the arts, and Rowntree Mills Park through collaborative arts and storytelling workshops and an interactive web app.
Inspired by the Humber River and the history of Toronto Rexdale’s local green spaces, we explore how plants are used to heal and nourish one’s spirit through artistic, Indigenous, and community-based approaches. In collaboration with Myseum of Toronto, this year’s project features a medicine walk by James Carpenter, Grey Cloud, about the interconnectedness of the trees, plants, wildlife and the Humber River, as well as a virtual participatory birch bark basket-making workshop led by Lindsey Lickers, ‘Mushkiiki Nibi Kwe’ (Medicine Water Woman), culminating in an online exhibit of participants’ artwork.
PROJECT AT A GLANCE
Location: Rexdale, Toronto
Artists/Facilitators: Lindsey Lickers and James Carpenter
one-of-a-kind handcrafted birch baskets exhibited
virtual medicine walk
From Weeds We Grow is an interdisciplinary public art project that began in 2020 to explore the Rexdale community’s relationship to the environment through virtual walking tours, workshops, storytelling and performances rooted in Rowntree Mills Park. This year, lead artists James Carpenter and Lindsey Lickers continue the exploration of nature, public space, art and wellness through three project components: a medicine walk led by James Carpenter, a participatory birch bark basket-making workshop led by Lindsey Lickers, and an online exhibition to showcase the resulting artwork by workshop participants. In collaboration with Myseum of Toronto, this project was showcased at this year’s virtual Myseum Intersections Festival.
“Birch has taught us many things over the course of this project. One of the most beautiful lessons is one of authenticity, being true to who you are no matter what others think. Giving for the sake of caring, unconditionally. Recognizing that we all bring something to the world that nobody else does or even can. These creations embody the spirit of this way of moving in the world, with not one being exactly the same as the other but all with the same purpose of holding and creating caring spaces.”
– Lindsey Lickers, ‘Mushkiiki Nibi Kwe’
Produced by Myseum in partnership with STEPS, James Carpenter led a virtual nature walk to share his Indigenous knowledge of Rowntree Mills Park located in the communities of Humber Summit and Toronto’s Rexdale. Inspired by the history of Rexdale’s local green spaces and the Humber River (traditionally known as Niwa’ah Onega’gaih’ih, meaning “Little Thundering Waters”), James shared the importance of community, our connections to the environment, how plants are used to heal and nourish one’s spirit, and the story of the sacred Birch Tree (Wiigwaas).
This medicine walk video accompanied the online birch bark basket-making workshop facilitated by Lindsey Lickers.
“The birch tree wanted to help the people, the community. All the forest was mad at the birch tree, and started to whip that tree. And even though all the forest told this tree not to help us human beings, this tree got a message from the great spirit, the one that gives life to all things and said, “Wiigwaas, if you want to help those people, go and help those people.” And what the great spirit did was it gave the birch tree so many layers of protection. So we often say that there are layers upon layers of skin in this birch tree. But we like to talk about the first seven layers of this birch. We learn that these seven layers also represent those seven grandfather teachings.”
“So in a birch tree they carry wisdom, love, respect, honesty, humility, bravery and truth. This is the teaching of the birch tree. So when you see these baskets, remember that this birch tree was one of those first helpers that said I want to help those people and give them a hand with their life. So we thank this birch tree, we say ‘miigwetch wiigwaas’.”
– James Carpenter
HONOURING OUR CONNECTIONS: CREATING A CARING VESSEL
Birch trees play a large role in Indigenous traditions and life. Birch bark is water resistant, allowing for use in the creation of many vessels. The medium of basket making is rooted in an expanded understanding of the importance of connecting to land, utilizing natural materials combined with personalized symbolism of these learnings.
In June 2021, STEPS and Myseum hosted a participatory workshop as part of the Myseum Intersections Festival that served as a platform to share how Indigenous peoples honour their relationship to the land through craft. Facilitated by Lindsey Lickers, this workshop gave participants an opportunity to experience first-hand the intricacies of this craft, while also honouring Indigenous experiences, histories and relationships, with the birch basket serving as the keeper of this new awareness. Leading up to the workshop, Lindsey collaborated with STEPS for an Instagram Takeover to share more about her practice alongside a series of artist talks.
Beginning with James Carpenter’s medicine walk, workshop participants were guided through a reflective exercise and presentation to dive deeper into their relationship with the land base they reside on, the environment at large, and how this relationship has been strengthened by the knowledge shared. Participants then had the opportunity to create miniature birch bark baskets used in medicine gathering with an invitation to exhibit their work in a virtual exhibit hosted by STEPS.
Special thanks to Albion Toronto Public Library and Glad Day Bookshop for distributing workshop kits to participants. Explore the virtual exhibit below by hovering over the gallery images and clicking the arrows to view each participant’s work!
“The inclusion of Indigenous artists like Lindsey Lickers, and storytelling from healer James Carpenter, is key to building relationships on the land our city is on, and in cultural exchange. Ongoing opportunity for Indigenous voices and knowledge to be shared is vital.”
– Sienna (she/they), Workshop Participant
Make Your Own Birch Bark Basket
Learn More About From Weeds We Grow
- Follow Lindsey Lickers on social media
- From Weeds We Grow 2020
- From Weeds We Grow Web App
- From Weeds We Grow Instagram Highlights
- Myseum Intersections Blog Post: Thistletown by Grant Evers
- Myseum Intersections Blog Post: Building a Relationship with Creation by Lindsey Lickers
- Myseum Intersections Blog Post: Spring in Rowntree Mills Park by Jim Graham
- Myseum Intersections Video: From Weeds We Grow Dynamic Walking Tour
Acknowledgements and Project Partners
From Weeds We Grow is part of the Arts in the Parks program. It has been made possible through generous support from Toronto Arts Foundation, Toronto Arts Council, and the City of Toronto.
We extend our thanks to Ontario Culture Days for their partnership. This project was featured as part of 2021 programming.