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LGBTQI+ refugees explore theme of love in sculpting workshop

Pottery program aimed to build skills and community for newcomers

3 min read
Two hands form a heart-shaped piece of clay on a wooden table
caption Workshop participant creates hearts out of clay.
Nour Hafid

Love was the central theme at the Canadian Museum of Immigration on Oct. 14, as young artists who came to Nova Scotia as LGBTQI+ refugees ran a ceramics and pottery workshop and invited participants to channel love into clay.

“Today, we are inviting people to think about what love means to them and then just hold that feeling and let it flow into their clay,” said Shreya Talwar, one of the interdisciplinary artists who ran the workshop. 

She said the intention is to celebrate love as an energy that doesn’t need a label. Participants were encouraged to create an artistic shape that inspired them, be it a sculpture or a leaf.

The event, part of the Nocturne festival, was the final display of the Rainbow Refugee pottery program and featured both a workshop and an exhibit of the young artists’ final artwork. The program is run by the Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia, a non-profit established in 2011 that offers private sponsorship to LGBTQI+ refugees who want to settle in the province.

For eight months, nine participants took part in free art and pottery classes led by artist and ceramicist Andrea Puszkar. Their final works are now displayed at the Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery of the Canadian Museum of Immigration. 

Puszkar says the program focused on both skills and community building through art, as newcomers often don’t know many people when they arrive in Halifax. The pottery classes provided an environment where they can connect with both people and their own artistic side. 

Two people in wearing artist aprons stand beside an easel
caption Workshop organizer Andrea Puszkar (left) with workshop facilitator Sara Sican
Nour Hafid

She says community outreach is an important part of her practice as an artist. Having the students become the teachers for a few hours by facilitating the workshop is her way of teaching them to build community through art. 

“That’s the whole point of this workshop in particular: this little community that we’ve built in my studio is now expanding into a broader community,” she said.

The workshop, run in the Rail Side Room of the museum, welcomed a small number of participants and didn’t require any prior ceramics experience.

Participant Gilles Perrine had never worked with clay before. He said the theme of love speaks to him. 

“It gives me an opportunity to think about love being nowadays closer to a privilege more than a right almost…It shouldn’t be the case, but it’s becoming like that,” he said. 

Beyond the art, the program aimed to empower the young artists by offering them a creative outlet. Workshop facilitator Sara Sican, whose stoneware clay piece “Escudo de Guatemala” is currently featured at the exhibit, said it feels incredible to see her work showcased at a gallery for people to come and see.

A circular clay piece of art with writing on it
caption Stoneware clay piece “Escudo de Guatemala” by Sara Sican, currently featured at the exhibit.
Nour Hafid

“I never imagined I could do something…like art,” she said. “I can express myself in the clay and it’s something important for me now.”

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