The Craftastics: Agents for Social Change
Jennie O and Valley Gardens Middle School Grrlz Club
Program: WITH ART Project
Location: Trading cards available through WAC, library, schools, and youth outreach centres
Medium: Various Media
View the full trading deck here
Valley Gardens Grrlz Club is a River East Transcona School Division after school program for teenage girls. During their weekly meetings, they make crafts, play games and have group discussions on topics from healthy dating relationships to self-esteem issues. Once a month or so, they volunteer in the community or help out another organization with events. The major goal of Grrlz Club is to empower girls in their teenage years and help them realize that girls are awesome and to help them inspire, heal and transform the community, each other and the world in which they live.
Over the course of a year and a bit, Jennie O met with the grrlz in the multi-purpose room at Valley Gardens School in Winnipeg's River East Neighbourhood. The location set the parameters for the project; there was limited storage capacity; the artwork had to be removable; and because it doubled as a lunchroom for the school, it had to be left clean and tidy.
During their weekly meetings, the grrlz discussed why their club was important and how they could demonstrate that in their art project. While Jennie O facilitated art activities; including artist trading cards, self-portraits, blind-contour drawings, and exquisite corpses, the group continued to discuss the ups and downs of being teenage girls as they would had done before Jennie O joined their club.
During their weekly meetings, the group decided that the artwork should address the issues they've encountered as teens, like gender discrimination, stereotyping, body-issues, depression, anxiety, gossip, peer pressure and bullying. Together they decided to create a team of superheroes to combat some of the challenges teens face. So, drawing on the skill set of Jennie O, they fabricated costumes and sculpted clay and cloth dolls. It was decided that the end product would be a deck of trading cards to showcase their superhero creations and thus, The Craftastics: Agents for Social Change was formed.
The Craftastics: Agents for Social Change Trading Card Deck, can be accessed by the public through schools, resource centres and libraries. It is the wish of the Grrlz Club and Jennie O that those who come across this project will be inspired to form their own art club to create positive social change in their schools and beyond.
It was an honour to mentor the girls and collaborate with them in creating The Craftastics Trading Card Deck. This art project truly celebrates the creativity, resilience and diversity of the teenage girls who created it. I am proud to say that it also gave the girls a voice to express their views, experiences and opinions and the platform to be active producers of their own culture. My hope is that this project will inspire and empower others to be creative agents of social change in their own communities.
Artist Jennie 0
This project has been a great experience for the girls involved. I think girls need to be encouraged and supported by other girls and women and given a place where they can share freely thoughts about their feelings, frustrations and fears about being a teen girl and some of the stereotypes they may encounter. A project like this with the funding help from Winnipeg Arts Council and the expertise of Jennie O has been amazing and I believe has given these girls a voice to share their thoughts on issues they face growing up today. We all need to help raise aspirations of young women and help them recognize their talents and full potential so they can achieve positive things in their life and in the community around them.
Community Programming Coordinator-Youth
You can look at the entire deck online here. You can also purchase your own trading deck by contacting the Winnipeg Arts Council (firstname.lastname@example.org, (204) 943-7668) or by visiting our online store.
Jennie O (O’Keefe) is a self-taught artist. Her sculptural narratives aim to draw viewers into a subversive yet honest world of biographical experience, myth and fairytale. Beginning with herself as the protagonist of each endless dreamlike story, she becomes surrounded by her family, friends, and foes in the forms of animal/human, fruit/human or inanimate object/human hybrids. Tongue-in-cheek at first glance, her dolls look at issues surrounding gender and social roles, human vs. animal, the environment, politics and identity. She has facilitated many art projects with youth in Winnipeg, Northern Communities and the U.S. She has received many awards and has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally.