What do the holidays mean to you?
It’s a question we asked local Ojibway artist Michael Cywink as the first snow started falling and we started thinking about celebrations with family and friends, just around the corner.
As a 100% local non-profit organization, United Way shows our local love by supporting hometown suppliers. This year, we commissioned Michael to create a meaningful piece of digital art to share with you in celebration of winter and the holiday season.
Here’s what the holidays mean to him. “Everything changed when my sister gave birth to my nieces,” Michael says. “I get more excited to see them open their presents than I do opening my own. The holidays are all about family and the positive feelings knowing we’ll be able to get together this year. What brings me joy? Family for sure.”
Michael’s joy jumps off the page. He describes his piece as something a bit personal and something everybody can connect to.”
The turtle shell and warm colours represent home. “Home can be anything, it’s not just a building,” he explains. “Home is where you feel safe, loved, appreciated, respected. It can be how you feel with someone. The beautiful thing is, we’re not trees, our roots aren’t planted. You can find that place for yourself.”
The eagle feathers represent value at a time of year that can be a financial strain for so many. “One of the things I value more than anything is an eagle feather my brother gave me,” he says. “I use it with my own smudging and ceremonial stuff I do with Indigenous youth throughout the London area. It has passed through so many hands, powerful in the healing work it’s done so far. It has no monetary value whatsoever but it’s so valuable to me.” Watch this short video to hear more from Michael.
A sense of belonging. A safe home. Simple gestures of kindness and gratitude. Michael’s artistic expression mirrors perfectly my holiday wishes for you and for our community. As we look toward 2022, I look forward to continuing the good things we are doing together to make those wishes come true.
On behalf of everyone at United Way, here’s to a safe and joyful holiday season and a bright new year.
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