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Weengushk Film Institute: Coming Soon?

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Weengushk Film Institute, image,
Concept design of new Weengushk Film Institute by architects ELASTICOFarm led by Stefano Pujatti. © Lisa Pujatti and Leonardo Dubois.

Weengushk Film Institute: Coming Soon?
by Staff Editors

(August 4, 2021 – Toronto, ON) Dr. Shirley Cheechoo is a James Bay Cree artist, actor, filmmaker and recipient of the Order of Canada. She is also the founder of the Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, which is approaching its 20th anniversary. One of Canada’s most meaningful centres of learning, the WFI is the first of its kind, a non-profit centre created to educate and inspire Indigenous and diverse youth with its logistics programming integrating creative and life skills. Now it’s time for something new.

Pictured above is a design for a new centre-for-learning, designed by architects ELASTICOFarm led by Stefano Pujatti. The centre will honour and empower indigenous and diverse youth and the shape of the building will be reminiscent of a turtle floating above the earth, an important motif in Indigenous cultures.

Dr. Shirley Cheechoo, image,
“I wanted the new Weengushk Film Institute’s training center to be shaped like a turtle as I have been taught that the turtle supports the world,” said Dr. Cheechoo. “It’s an icon of life itself.”

Embracing this shared knowledge through biophilic design, the architects have incorporated the project’s natural surroundings and elements by using timber and stone distinctive to Manitoulin, as well as ice, which has been used culturally by Indigenous peoples as an efficient insulator. The mass of the building will float above the landscape on columns designed for the building to carry itself while allowing the structure the ability to minimize its impact on its surrounding environment and providing an outdoor space underneath for programming and public events. Inside, learners will benefit immensely through the expanded program offerings that the Turtle Island Projects’ state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, and performance spaces will house for Weengushk Film Institute.

Weengushk Film Institute students, image,

The innovative design has also been selected as part of the Italian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, currently on and continuing until November. There, visitors from across the world can learn about Weengushk Film Institute and the importance of investing in Indigenous talent.

“​​There’s a lot of work to be done,” Dr. Cheechoo added. “There’s a lot of change that needs to happen and together we can make change.”

The Weengushk Film Institute is an artist-focused film and television training centre, dedicated to unlocking the creative potential of Indigenous youth. While celebrating and sharing their voices, these emerging Indigenous artists learn market-leading and life skills, as they begin their path towards inspired and sustainable futures. Through an understanding of tradition, culture, and identity, WFI envisions the collection, preservation, and representation of new creative voices. The development and recognition of Indigenous youth at WFI supports the important contribution of Indigenous stories to the Canadian arts landscape. WFI is the first program of its kind to be accredited by a Canadian University, and is proud of its partnership with Brock University.

WFI supports the Weengushk International Film Festival (WIFF) where thousands descend on Manitoulin Island to celebrate storytelling through film and television, a celebration of indigenous and diverse voices bringing together industry veterans, new and emerging independent filmmakers, including a unique WFI student film showcase.

WFI’s 20th year anniversary will be celebrated at the 2022 Weengushk International Film Festival event focused on celebrating Women entitled Right From The Womb.

Also see: Dr. Shirley Cheechoo’s filmography.