Making a difference

framing dames northern initiative

Framing Dames in Highland Creek is sending seven boxes of sketch pencils, coloured pencils and sketch books to help give young people in Kashechewan something to do.

April 2017


Initiative sends much-needed art supplies to remote First Nation community


By Kathryn Stocks

Kashechewan First Nation is a remote and desolate fly-in community located near James Bay in Northern Ontario that has approximately 2,000 residents. A large number of them are young people with almost nothing to do. To help fill this gap, Catherine Hawthorn and Dianne Richardson at Framing Dames in Highland Creek have set up the Northern Arts Initiative to send much-needed art supplies to the community.

Kashechewan has had a number of serious problems throughout the years, including a suicide crisis in 2007, evacuation due to flooding from 2012 to 2015, and an outbreak of skin rashes in 2016. Catherine has wanted to do something to help for a long time but didn’t know how to go about it.

“We thought what could we do? We have this art program and we have art supplies, so the best way to help would be to send some art supplies up there and get an art program started,” she said. She recently partnered with the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority to help bring some relief to Kashechewan.

“I got in touch with Christine Head who is the crisis worker there and she was really excited about it. She was saying that when the kids in the community came in to ask for paper that wasn’t lined, she gave them paper out of her computer.”


A new community centre is now being built in Kashechewan and an art studio will be part of it. “Our idea is to eventually supply the art studio with their supplies and run programs out of there,” Catherine said. “That’s our long-term goal. Right now we’re sending up dry stuff: pencils, sketchbooks, things that don’t have a lot of weight.” The difficult part is transporting the items up north. The nurses will have to take the art supplies with them on the small planes that fly into the community.


The kits Catherine has chosen for the older children include a large sketchbook and a set of sketch pencils that come with an eraser and a sharpener in a zippered case. She will also add coloured pencils to the set. The younger children will get a smaller sketchbook with coloured pencils in a bright zippered case. “These are great because they will keep it all together,” she said of the sets. “And it’s like a gift. No one has used it before.” For the first round, there are seven boxes of items: 12 of each set for the older kids and 12 for the younger ones.  

“They’re such a rich culture artistically and creatively,” Catherine said. “When they get going, we can give them lessons via Skype.” She will post pictures of the children with their art on the Framing Dames website (

Donations to the Northern Arts Initiative can be made at the Framing Dames store in Highland Creek or on their website. All the money collected goes to buying art materials for the residents of Kashechewan.

“We’re not going to change it,” Catherine said, “but it gives them something to do. Let them doodle or use it as a journal. It’s a nice little book to have. Hopefully, it will make a difference.”