Collaboration leads to innovative design for the Indigenous Students' Centre at Sask Polytech Regina campus
“Growing up, I didn’t see my Indigenous identity in community spaces,” says Brandi Kohl. “When we received support to update the Regina campus Indigenous Students’ Centre, we wanted it to become a place where Indigenous students felt welcomed, inspired and empowered. This new space is cool and innovative. It demonstrates how much Saskatchewan Polytechnic values Indigenous students.”
The project launched on one serendipitous day in November, 2021 when there was a power outage at Regina campus. Kohl, the Regina Indigenous Students' Centre coordinator, ran into Cody Peterson, a Graphic Communications instructor, during the outage. Peterson mentioned to Kohl that the Graphic Communications program recently acquired a new printer and how it could create custom, giant vinyl wall graphics. As the power was out and it was difficult to get work done, the two began to brainstorm ways they could collaborate to make the Indigenous Students’ Centre an awesome space.
“It usually happens like that, bumping into the right people at the right time,” says Peterson. “From the start it was a good fit for our Graphic Communications program. We are always looking for opportunities to work on real life projects with a real client to give students industry experience.”
In December Kohl and Aaron Tootoosis, Indigenous student advisor, pitched their idea for a wall wrap that would cover most of the walls in the Indigenous Students’ Centre to the Graphic Communications students. Students created mock-ups based on the information provided by Indigenous Strategy, along with artwork Sask Polytech purchased from Dakota artist Chantel Yuzicappi. “This project opened the students’ eyes to Indigenous content, students learned about Indigenous culture and language while also working on a project that uses their graphic design skills and benefits the Regina campus,” says Peterson. “It was a real win for the program.”
“It was a fun project for Indigenous Strategy to work on with students. Aaron, Elder Diane Kaiswatum and I reviewed the students’ work. It’s interesting because we thought we wanted this one specific thing and the students gave us something better than what we could have imagined,” says Kohl. “We are really excited for the updated centre.”
After reviewing the work of 20 Graphic Communications students, Indigenous Strategy picked their top three examples and narrowed it down to one collaborative wall design that was installed earlier this month. The final piece includes ten panels that are each 52” wide by 9’ tall. It took almost six hours to print the wall decals. All second-year students from the Graphic Communications program took part in installing the approved artwork.
“It’s awesome to see students creating this amazing space for other students,” says Tootoosis. “We have noticed that some students from Graphic Communications are now hanging out in the Indigenous Students’ Centre. This project is building bridges and miyo wahkohtowin.”
“The new center feels welcoming,” says Elder Diane Kaiswatum. “Each of us relates to symbols. This new space makes Indigenous people feel proud of who we are. It is something personal we can relate to.”
“It was a really cool experience,” shared Alex Idt, a Graphic Communications student who collaborated with classmate Thomas Popp on the final chosen design. “From the start you could tell Brandi and Aaron are super passionate about what they do. We had the opportunity to talk to them about their vision and bring it to life. Our instructors were very supportive throughout the process. It’s surreal my work will be on campus for years to come.”
Popp agrees with Idt. He adds, “This project taught me it’s important to really listen to the client. This was an interesting project. I never thought I would work on something on such a large scale. I was surprised my design was chosen. I’m really happy Brandi and Aaron liked it enough to have it on the walls of the students’ center.”
“The way the Graphic Communications students were able to use Chantel Yuzicappi’s artwork, incorporate the intricate Métis sash design, include Indigenous language and colours, it’s impressive. The artwork is super cool,” says Kohl. “We are really happy with the final product.”
Indigenous Strategy would like to thank Graphic Communications instructors and students, Facilities Management, Audio Visual Services (AVS) and Elder Kaiswatum for their support and input in upgrading the centre. Facilities helped the process move along smoothly and upgraded the furniture in the centre. AVS provided the centre with new technology that easily allows for students to attend events on campus and remotely.
About the artwork: Created by Dakota artist Chantel Yuzicappi, Standing Buffalo First Nation in Treaty 4 Territory, the artwork tells Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s story. Each image has deep significance. Education is the new buffalo. The relationship between students and teachers is represented through the star. Student success and growth is celebrated by the Dakota flower.
Learn more about Indigenous strategy at saskpolytech.ca/indigenous.
Learn more about the Graphic Communications program online.
Published March 2022.