A new group is helping First Nations people integrate into the workforce by utilizing their artistic skills.

At the Ivirtivik Community Centre in Verdun, members of the Native community who left for the big city get help acclimating.

“We think that arts and crafts brings them an opening to actually be able to reinsert socially in urban life, but with the tools of art,” said vice-president Caroline Orchard.

Among the students is Joseph Write-Hannaberg. He said his passion is symmetrical art, for which he uses a felt pen and a ruler. He’s influenced by the Mohawk art and culture he grew up around.

“Growing up in the Mohawk culture, I saw a lot of art, whether it’s visual or the Native dances or the Native crafts (like) dreamcatchers, earrings, jewelry, necklaces,” he said. “It’s everywhere on the reserve.”

Orchard’s husband Ricardo Andre is the arts teacher at the centre.

“Art is something everyone is able to do,” he said. “All they have to do is apply themselves and everyone has an artist inside of them.”

Andre called teaching at the centre “a learning experience.”

“I don’t know their language and I don’t know their culture,” he said. “It something new for me.”

Orchard said she believes the arts lessons are providing good skills for people looking to enter the job market.

“When they leave their reserves, most of them are hunters, they are doing quilt, they’re doing clothing, they’re not prepared to work at normal jobs,” she said.

Whether you can consider art a normal job or not, Write-Hannaberg said he’s determined to make a living with his art.

“I’m making coasters,” he said. “They’re prototypes, I guess an example of what I can progress into… Ever since they came into my life I’ve been filled with so much more inspiration to keep on drawing and create.”