Art Wayfinder

In ancient times mental and spacial imagery for wayfinding was essential for survival.

In many indigenous global cultures, extraordinary memory for trails, routes, signs, topogra­phy, places, plants and food sources were essential for survival of the community. As humans we have, as part of our DNA, an innate inner ability to find our way. The question is. Has this ability been silenced by years of repetitive economic based success education training? I think so.

I was lucky enough to be raised by art wayfinders. Humans of mixed ancestry with a stone soup bag of skills, talents, exchange knowledge and the gift of an internal compass to seek our own path. A path that is ancient in its calling, to work in a modern way through land and hand based skills lifestyles.

Painting murals with at risk youth and communities uses the combination of those ancient wisdoms with to assist youth and communities with modern social issues. I sometimes watch my grandchildren who have minimal knowledge of astronomy, geography or even a compass, find their way through covid, school systems, and this new digital world with much more ease than watching our government try to navigate.

Each challenge and obstacle, each rock and new plant, have for them distinguishing features, which have been lent to them from their lineage information that they constantly amaze me with.

This geo spacial and hand based skills journey has been gifted to them by a family that is very close to the ways of their immigrant wayfinder indigenous ancestors. Trying to maintain these memories while navigating an urbanized world is challenging. Especially where everything is boxed in a success plan for political economic success that really doesn’t incorporate all of us in it. How do we move these young ones forward with the toolboxes that they will need?


My thoughts though takes me to the art of wayfinding. Of using natural skill and hand trade art knowledge that is imbedded into artist DNA as we navigate the next world covid has pushed us to.

Will it be that natural art talent, curiosity, inventive ancient wisdom that will lead us to rebuild communities: with infrastructures of the system feeding the people not the systems? I think if we can value the economic and social community building of the arts, as humanity, not as a decorative feature, we would be step one in seeing that art is what built civilized humanity in the first place. Art wayfinding is how I believe humans exist. The crews of youth and elders that graced my walls, believed that we were all art wayfinders. They did not fit in the systems that taught to regurgitate, but walked paths to innovate and question and disrupt. Isn’t this what artists, musicians and writers are made to do?

Yes, we painted giant walls. But we also learned to fish, tie knots, do electrical work, trades, find natural food, shared food, stories and helped each other out as we created a path for so many to find their way.

I believe we all have an internal compass. A self regulated path that takes you on a journey to creative lives that support the spiral of evolution. That is the exchange and the concept of working together based on the need to survive. As the arts gain in the system renewal plan, it is imperative we remember that the artists that are being called to lead, remember the arts have supported civilization since the first structure was built, the first animal was skillfully turned into tools, and fire was created.

If we can see art as the infrastructure of the renewal, and not only an added tourism or marketing benefit that this digital world takes huge economic benefit from. Maybe the planet and our grandchildren can survive.

When that pie of art, (imagine a dollar a view), that is shared across media channels, education and government system use, has a shared distribution plan for artists, social change, community building and the remaking of the fading Canadian infrastructure, will we truly be able to rebuild an inclusive circular economy. With all able to get a piece of that pie, while learning to make new ones.

Our ancestors are talking. They are telling us to get curious, to remember your art wayfinding skills. Create new earth saving ideas, plant a garden, make a life that gives back to people, place and planet. Remember how your soul and hands can come together to create, make and connect.

My murals were wayfinder art. The people of my walls learned and exchanged skills, and left geo-placemaking tourism legacies. But the walls became a place to return to, to find the support in a safe way and to be able to enter your community, all in a space on the concrete sidewalk that did not have an intimidating door to have to walk through.

Self regulated learning starts from wandering and wayfinding and finding out what you can do from the wisdoms that we carry in our memories. Directed learning fails us, as no one can see what we see inside our paths, our callings. If we are directed before we experience, how do know we could not discover a calling that could change the world. Life and art is messy and chaotic, spiralling into a golden ratio of new revolutionary renewal.

If you watch a child paint a picture you are in front of a master. That child has not been told yet that the vision they see of the future is not true. And before the sea of blue sky art starts to arrive, with the yellow sun and the pink flower that every child is told is right. I always see the art with what a child sees, as the teachings we need to pay attention to. These small crayon wayfinder warriors trying to lead us to a world they already see.

The ART WAYFINDER tribe is huge, it started for me with an orange wax crayon and my mom letting me not colour in the lines. Thanks MOM!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: