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  • Eugene Stickland

The Red Dress

One thing we all are becoming used to throughout this pandemic is Zoom and other platforms like it. It's probably fair to say that most of us don't really love communicating this way, but it serves its purpose of keeping us all connected.


Like everyone else in the world, the people involved with Stardale are having regular online meetings to check in and see how everyone is doing. Some of the girls don't live in the best of circumstances and Helen is anxious to stay in touch with them, to remind them they are not alone.


It goes beyond that, even. Last week Helen and staff dropped off Crave cupcakes and materials to decorate them with to all the girls (and even to yours truly) and so while we had our online meeting last week, we all decorated our cupcake. (I didn't win any awards for my efforts, but the cupcake was sure good!)


While the Stardale program usually isn't offered in the summer, Helen has decided to keep going as long as isolating is the order of the day. She doesn't want to leave the girls high and dry, as they say, so we will continue on with our weekly meetings for the foreseeable future.


Ongoing, videographer Vanessa Welzel, director Helen Young and I will start working with the girls as we prepare to shoot the video version of The Road. As you likely are aware, The Road began as a script for live performance back when we had such things.


Using this technology, we will have the chance to hear different girls read different parts - not really an audition as such, just to find out who is best suited for the various voices.


In this way we can keep moving forward without compromising anyone's need for social distancing. Hopefully by the time we are ready to start shooting the video, there will be further relaxing of the rules around congregating to ensure everyone's safety.


As you likely know by now, The Road is our response to the findings of the Commission on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. One important symbol that has emerged in the past few years, also a response to the findings of the commission, is the red dress.


This was originally an art installation created by the Métis artist Jaime Black at the University of Winnipeg's Institute for Women's and Gender Studies. Hundreds of dresses have been donated to an art installation that has gone way beyond the walls of any gallery.


The dresses are empty, obviously in reference to the women who should be wearing them but who are no longer with us. They are red for a number of reasons: red is thought to be the only colour that spirits can see. It also symbolizes not only vitality but also danger, even violence.


One way Stardale staff have been keeping the girls engaged through this isolating time is through art; not only through their participation in the creation of The Road script but through painting as well.


Stay well, friends.


Stay safe.

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